The San Salvatore-Santa Giulia Monastery in Brescia

Fondazione Brescia Musei

This UNESCO World Heritage monastery recounts history from the time of the Lombards onwards.

The San Salvatore-Santa Giulia Monastery
The San Salvatore-Santa Giulia Monastery in Brescia was founded in the mid-8th century AD by Desiderius, last king of the Lombards, and his wife Ansa. A Benedictine convent, it welcomed the widows, sisters and daughters of high-ranking figures, and accumulated valuable endowments. Over the centuries the monastery was embellished with new buildings, frescoes, reliefs and furnishings, some of which were lost after Napoleon’s suppression of monastic orders at the end of the 18th century.
Since 1998, after architectural restoration, archaeological excavations and refurbishment of the buildings, it has been home to Brescia’s City Museum, which recounts local history from the 3rd millennium BC until the 1700s. The museum itineraries incorporate structural and other remains of the monastic complex, two Roman town houses, a Lombard church, a Romanesque chapel containing the monastery treasure, and a Renaissance choir.
The prehistoric and protostoric periods
This section illustrates the evolution of occupation on yhe site of the city, from the first scattered villages to the foundation of a proto-urban settlement in the Iron Age. The second major theme is that of the occupation of Brescian territory from the Copper Age until the period of Romanization.

The silver phalera dates to the first half of the first century BC and was used as part of a horse's tack to cover the places where straps crossed. It is decorated on the outer side with stylised human heads.​

The iron helmet dates to between the fourth and third centuries BC. It has cheek-guards and applique decoration in bronze with incised and relief floral and zoomorphic decorations.

In the atmospheric cellar rooms, anphorae, milestones and grave goods are on display, evidence of Roman life in the territory around Brescia.

The Roman period
The sequence of exhibits gives a picture of the city from the 1st century BC until the 6th century AD; material from religious and secular public buildings, private houses (domus), cemeteries and the oldest Christian churches is on display.

This Roman bronze statue of Winged Victory is a symbol that is still valid today. The statue was found in 1826 among the ruins of the city’s Capitolium temple.

Monastery garden domus
The monastery was built on the remains of a Roman residential quarter, some of which are included in the museum visitors’ itineraries. The two luxury town houses or domus preserved beneath the monastery’s garden were part of this quarter. Decorated with coloured mosaics and wall paintings, they were inhabited from the 1st until at least the 3rd century AD.

The triclinium (dining room) of the Domus of Dionysus is the room with most wall paintings; at the centre is an exceptional mosaic depicting Dionysus.

Detail of the figured panel in the middle of the triclinium showing the god Dionysus giving a drink to a panther.

Exposition of sarcophagus slab sand mosaics in the museum.

Mosaics were the most widespread floors in the Roman world. Black and white mosaics with geometric patterns are most common.

Epitaphs contain important informations about professions, the society, the customs, the habits and the human dramas of the common people.

The Early Medieval Section: Longobards and Carolingians
The Early Medieval section presents a selection of objects that document the Longobard presence in Brescia and surrondings area. Amongst these items - mostly from funerary assemblages - certain types stand out: weapons, pins for securing garments, necklaces and the beautiful small embossed gold crosses.

A selection of objects from funerary assemblages are on display.

Church of San Salvatore
The Lombard church of San Salvatore, erected in the mid-8th century AD, is an important example of Early Medieval religious architecture; the original building is easily distinguishable from later additions.

The Lombard church is divided into nave and side aisles by two lines of columns; some of these are reused Roman items, as are several lavishly decorated capitals.

The nave and side aisles are abundantly frescoed with episodes from the life of Christ and the Christian martyrs whose relics were kept in the crypt.

Beneath the panels on the wall there was an inscription commemorating the founder, King Desiderius.

Fine stucco decorations on the arches link the architecture with the painted decorations.

Stucco decorations is embellished with glass inserts.

‘Basket’ capital of Byzantine origin reused in the northern aisle of the church.

This slab, together with a mirror-image reflection of it, decorated the wall of a pulpit; the peacock, portrayed in great detail, was a symbol of immortality.

This furnishing of the church founded by King Desiderius is carved in Greek marble; it was probably the top of an altar.

The decoration included a series of rare mould-made terracottas decorated with bunches of grapes and vine leaves.

In 2011 it with the archaeological area achieved UNESCO World Heritage listing as part of the serial site The Longobards in Italy. Places of Power (568-774 AD).

The period of the "Comuni" and the "Signorie" (1038-1426)
The sequence of exhibits includes architectural pieces, sculptures and frescos made for buildings in the city and surroundings countryside between the late 11th century and first decades of the 15th century.
Santa Maria in Solario
The Romanesque chapel of Santa Maria in Solario was built in around the mid-12th century; it is square in plan and the octagonal upper portion has a closed loggia with reused Early Medieval columns and capitals.

The central pillar of Santa Maria in Solario’s lower chamber rests on a Roman altar, reused in the 12th century. The nuns kept the monastery treasure in this room.

The upper chamber of Santa Maria in Solario, a chapel reserved for the nuns, was frescoed by Brescian artists Floriano Ferramola and his workshop in the early 16th century.

This masterpiece of early 9th century AD Carolingian gold-working, known as the Cross of Desiderius, is particularly large and richly decorated.

Set into the cross are 212 gems dating from the Roman period to the 16th century, including a medallion showing a Roman matron and her children.

The "Male portrait with helmet" dating to the second half of the 1st century BC is one of the onyx cameos that decorate the cross.

Nuns’ choir
The choir allowed the cloistered nuns to attend the religious services held in the church of San Salvatore. The walls were covered in frescoes – with an iconographic theme inspired by the concept of salvation – painted by various artists between the 1520s and 1550s.

The choir is overlooked by a monumental “Crucifixion” on the end wall, painted by the Brescian artist Floriano Ferramola (1525-27).

The Venetian period
The sequence of exhibits gives a picture of the city in the 15th and 16th centuries; materials from public and private buildings, convents and churches is on display.

Grotesque stone masks, second half of the 16th century.

Part of the extensive collection of Roman inscriptions is on display in the Renaissance north cloister.

Credits: Story

Comune di Brescia, Associazione Italia Langobardorum, Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio delle Province di Bergamo e Brescia.

"Mimmo Paladino. Ouverture" is on display at Santa Giulia Museum from 6 May until 7 January 2018.

Credits: All media
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