The San Fermo Maggiore Church in Verona is not just one, but two churches on top of one another. The bottom one is Roman, the top one Gothic. One of the highlights is the 15th century Brenzoni Mausoleum. Another one is the magnificent ship’s keel ceiling of the upper church.
San Fermo Maggiore Church Verona
Opening hours: March-October: From 10.00 till 18.00 (Sundays and holidays: From 13.00 till 18.00; November till February: 10.00 till 13.00 and 13.30 till 17.00 (Sundays and holidays: 13.00 till 17.00 uur). Closed: Never. Entrance fee: 2,50 Euros (discount: 2 Euros). Free with the Verona Card. Phone: +39 045592813. Address: Stradone San Fermo, 1 – 37121 Verona. Public transport: Bus: 11, 12, 13, 51, 70, 72, 73, 90, 92, 96, 97, 98, 510.
The first, bottom church was built between 1065 and 1143, on the ruins of a former 5th century pieve. A pieve is a countryside church with a baptistery. This church was also dedicated to the saints Fermo and Rustico, who both had died a martyr’s death in this spot. The walls are made of volcanic tuff stone. The arcades are decorated with frescoes.
Construction of the upper church started in 1313. The Franciscan fathers who built it left the bottom church in pact, but kept embellishing the new, Gothic church with frescoes and other works of art. Tuff stone and brick were alternated.
The two parts of the church are separated by a row of arches. The apse consists of a Roman lower and a Gothic top part, with several pointy elements.
The Roman portal has a beautiful bronze door, which is divided into 24 tiles, showing events from the lives of the saints Fermo and Rustico. The artist was Luciano Minguzzi. The statue above the portal depicts Saint Francis.
A door in the right transept leads to the cloister from where you take the steps to the oldest part of the church. The floor plan is a Latin cross and had three naves that are separated by stone columns with medieval capitals.
There are a number of 11th to 13th century wall paintings. The “Baptism of Christ” on the third column of the left nave was recently restored. Another painting depicts the “Breastfeeding Madonna”.
The presbytery contains a 14th century wooden crucifix and the stone on which the two saints were beheaded is preserved in the right nave.
The Latin cross interior of the upper part consists of a single nave, with five side apses and altars. The magnificent wooden ceiling is shaped like an upside down ship’s keel and decorated with a double row of columns painted with saints’ portraits.
Most art works in the upper part were made between the 13th and 17th century.
The 14th century fresco “Musician Angels” is by Stefano da Svevia. The “Crucifixion” fresco is by Turone.
There are several paintings by Domenico Brusasorci and several sculptures by a young Michele Sanmicheli. Francesco Torbido, Battista del Moro, Liberale da Verona and Alessandro Turchi (aka l’Orbetto) also contributed.
The Mausoleum of Nicolò Brenzoni is decorated with sculptures by Nanni di Bartolo. It is one of the sculptural highlights in the church and was made around 1440.
Pisanello was responsible for the “Annunciation” above the Brenzoni Mausoleum and the “Saints Raphael and Michael”. The “Annunciation” was painted in 1426.