The Duomo Vecchio is one of the two cathedrals of Brescia. Because of its round shape, it is also called La Rotonda. Its architecture is Romanesque. It consists of two cylindrical bodies on top of each other, with a conical drum above. Highlights are the 11th century crypt and the Chapel of the Holy Crosses, where several precious relics are preserved.
Duomo Vecchio Brescia
Address, opening hours and entrance fee
Address: Piazza Paolo VI – Brescia. (tel. +39 03042714). Opening hours: From 09.00 to 12.00 and from 15.00 to 18.00. Entrance fee: Free.
History and Description
The Duomo Vecchio is the most important surviving Romanesque building in Brescia. It was built in the 11th century on the pre-existing Santa Maria Maggiore basilica.
The “Old Cathedral” has a round floor plan. Its top part consists of a cylindrical drum crowned by a structure with small pillars under an earthenware covering.
The ceiling consists of a spherical cap supported by eight semi-circular arches on pillars. Two staircases lead to a walkway that runs along the inner wall of the church.
The deep presbytery is located on a platform and was built between 1488 and 1498. It has two side chapels.
What to see
Il Moretto, “Assumption of the Virgin”
Behind the main altar is a “Assumption of the Virgin Mary” painted by Il Moretto in 1526. The same painter was responsible for the “San Luca and San Marco” in the right side chapel.
Chapel of the Holy Crosses
The Treasury of the Holy Crosses is found in the Cappella delle Sante Croci in the northern transept. Protected by a gilded gate, it can only rarely be visited by the public. The biggest attraction here is the Relic of the True Cross, i.e. of the cross used for Jesus’ crucifixion.
As a rule, the Treasury is only opened on the last Friday of Lent and on September 14th.
The relics further include a staurotheca containing the Reliquia Insigne or “Relic of the True Cross”, the Croce dell Campo, the “Holy Thorns”, the Relic of the Holy Cross”, and others.
Two staircases lead to the 11th century crypt. Both the ceiling of this space and the three apses are decorated with frescoes.
Francesco Maffei painted the “Displacement of the Bodies of Some Brescian Saints.” This painting shows how the Piazza Duomo (today’s Piazza Paolo VI) looked in the 17th century.
In the transept, fragments of a floor mosaic from the 6th century can still be seen.
The sarcophagus to the right of the entrance is the final resting place of a former bishop of the city, Bernardo Maggi. The monument in made in 1308 by an unknown artist. The funerary monument for another bishop, Balduino Lambertini, also of the 14th century stands to the right in the ambulatory.