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Duomo Vecchio 360° virtual tour

The old dome of Brescia represents an example of extraordinary beauty of Romanesque architecture in Italy.


1. History

As of the 7th century, there have always been two cathedrals – the summer and the winter - standing next to each other at Piazza del Duomo. However, none of  them survived in its early Christian form: the winter cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore was probably destroyed by a fire or an earthquake an it was finally demolished during the 12th century to make room for Duomo Vecchio, the old cathedral.

2. What to see

Layout of the cathedral is strange: it consists of a large Rotunda with a Gothic-style apse and a large Renaissance transept attached to it. There used to be two entrances from north and south but none of them is in use anymore because a new one was established in 1571. The interior is characterized by the hemispherical dome resting on eight great arches supported by pillars. Opposite the entrance is placed the sarcophagus (in red marble from Verona) of Berardo Maggi.

Reached by stairs on either side of the sanctuary is the Crypt of St. Filastrio dating back at least to the 6th century. It belonged to the former basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and thus is the oldest Christian site in Brescia. This crypt consists of three aisles separated by two colonnades and covered by a series of vaults.

Present chancel of the cathedral is the result of several extensions. The great vault along the central axis of the building was completed in the second half of the 13th century by the will of Berardo Maggi an it is still covered with frescoes from that time. Depictions include the symbols of the Four Evangelists and Virgin Mary painted with some Byzantine influence. The keystone of the vault bears the symbol of Agnus Dei. Rest of the chancel is the result of a second expansion of the late fifteenth century. It is also worth looking down to the floor because ancient mosaics of the 6th century Christian basilica can be seen through glass panels. At the center of the chancel is the large altar in red Verona marble, probably built during the time of Bishop Berardo Maggi. Behind the altar is the Assumption of the Virgin, painted by Moretto between 1524 and 1526. It is enclosed in an elegant gilded wooden frame, a typical work of Renaissance art. Noteworthy is also the grand organ by Giangiacomo Antegnati dating back to 1536.

3. When to see

The church is open 10am-noon and 3-7pm. Closed on Mondays.

4. Location

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