The biggest attractions of the Santa Maria della Steccata Basilica in Parma are the dome frescoes by Parmigianino and the image of the Madonna at the main altar. The church dates back to the 16th century.
Santa Maria della Steccata Basilica Parma
Address: Strada Giuseppe Garibaldi, 5 – 43121 Parma. Phone: +39 0521 234937. Opening hours: From 07.30 till 12.00 and from 15.00 till 18.30. Ticket: Free.
History and description
Before the present church was built, there used to be a small oratory in this spot. Toward the end of the 14th century an effigy of a breast-feeding Madonna was attached to the facade of this chapel. Both this image and a fresco depicting the Madonna inside the church were the object of veneration. The number of people flocking to the church to see the images increased rapidly, which made it necessary to put up an iron fence (steccata, in Italian) around the effigy.
It also became necessary to build a bigger church. The sanctuary was constructed in the 16th century. The dome of this church was designed by Antonio da Samgallo il Giovane.
What to see
The arch supporting the dome of the presbytery was frescoed by Parmigianino. He painted “The Wise and the Foolish Virgins”, after a parable from the Gospel of Matthew. In this parable, ten virgins were waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. Five of them had enough oil in their lamps, five didn’t. The groom arrived in the middle of the night and the five virgins. The groom arrived in the middle of the night, and the virgins without oil had to go out and buy some. When they returned, they were not let in by the bridegroom, because they had not been ready for him.
In 1823, Maria Luigia of Austria had a crypt constructed in order to preserve the tombs of the dukes and princes of the Farnese and Bourbon-Parma houses. Till then, these had been preserved in the Santa Maria del Tempio Church.
Another attraction is the sculpture group “Pietà” near the entrance. It was made by Tommaso Bandini in 1851 and is dedicated to Maria Luigia.