The Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore

The Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore

Verona, known for its millennia-old history, picturesque hill landscapes, and, of course, exceptional religious architecture, is a city that never fails to captivate visitors. Among the numerous churches and basilicas, the Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore stands out for its beauty and historical and religious significance.

The Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore is dedicated to San Zeno, the patron saint of Verona, and it is one of the most important places of worship in the city. Its construction began in the 9th century, above a church built on the saint's tomb, and it was completed in the 13th century, though it underwent transformations and adaptations over the centuries, assuming its current configuration. The Basilica of San Zeno is not only a sacred edifice but also a masterpiece predominantly of Romanesque architecture, characterized by an imposing facade, a series of medieval frescoes, and even some Gothic and Renaissance elements.

The facade of the Basilica of San Zeno is a marvel of Romanesque architecture, dominated by a magnificent rose window, known as the "Wheel of Fortune," adorned with statues depicting various phases of human life. At the center of the facade stands the protiro, signed by the master Niccolò in the 12th century, featuring stylized lions, sacred and political bas-reliefs, and depictions of the months of the year.
The main entrance of the Basilica of San Zeno boasts an extraordinary bronze portal composed of 73 various-sized panels adorning two large wooden doors. These panels appear to be asymmetrically arranged and depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments, miracles of San Zeno, human figures, and Virtues. The portal was created at different times by various master founders, possibly three, using the method of small separate castings. The two current wooden doors, made of larch, were likely crafted when the church was expanded in 1138. The panels, however, seem to have originally been created to decorate a smaller and older church portal and were later reused and integrated when the church was expanded. This explains the apparent iconographic and aesthetic disorder of the panels.
In general, the portal is considered one of the most interesting examples of its kind in Italy.

On either side of the protiro and the portal, a series of sculptures adorn the facade, making it a veritable stone book that tells sacred stories from the Old and New Testaments through its sculptures, including the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the Original Sin, the Flight into Egypt, the Crucifixion, and even the prominent figure of Theodoric the Great. The bas-reliefs on the left side of the left protiro belong to the artist Guglielmo.

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