The Church of Santo Stefano is one of the oldest early Christian churches in Verona. During the first four centuries of its existence it was in this church that the city’s bishops were buried. Its biggest attractions is the Cappella degli Innocenti. It is located across the river from the Ponte di Pietra.
Santo Stefano Church Verona
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Scaletta Santo Stefano, 2 – 37129 Verona. Phone: +39 0458348529. Opening hours: The church is only open for mass. Admission: Free.
History and description
The Chiesa di Santo Stefano was constructed in the 5th century, probably on top of an ancient cemetary. It was meant to be a burial place for the bishops of Verona.
A 10th century reconstruction led to the present division into three naves. Although the general circumference stayed the same, the architectural style became more Romanesque.
The robust build of the church made it survive even the earthquake of 1117, which damaged several other important buildings.
During a later reconstruction in the 12th century the facade was covered with alternating strips of brick and tuff stone. The octagonal drum with two rows of mullioned windows was also added in the 12th century.
It is easy to note that the church has undergone several changes in the course of the centuries. The external walls are 5th and 6th century remains. The columns and capitols were added in the 8th century, as was the bishop’s chair. The crypt and the slightly raised presbytery were added in the 10th century. The chapels and altars stem from the 14th to the 18th century.
Chapel of the Innocents
The most interesting chapel of the Santo Stefano Church is the baroque Cappella degli Innocenti. This chapel, which was constructed in 1620 and is officially called Cappella Varalli, is decorated with mannerist ornaments.
The most important work is the painting “40 holy martyrs from Verona” by Orbetto, whose real name was Alessandro Turchi, but sometimes also called himself Alessandro Veronese.
Pasquale Ottino painted the “Massacre of the Innocents” and Antonio Bassetti was responsible for the “Five Bishops”.
The chapel is named after Giulio Varalli, who financed its construction. Apart from the five bishops, the relics of 40 saints were supposed to be kept in the chapel, together with the bones of four children killed by King Herod. Obviously, these three baroque paintings all refer to the tombs and relics in the chapel.