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The Veneto: Padua and Verona               NEW: Bologna

A plan of the convent and church from 1807

Piazza Sant'Anastasia

Work on this gothic church, the largest church in Verona, begun in 1290, to designs by two Dominican friars Fra Benvenuto da Bologna and Fra Nicolò da Imola. Work continued through the 14th and 15th centuries, and was finally completed in 1481, although the façade was never finished. Sant'Anastasia was the name of the previous church on the site, built during the 9th century, and by tradition the church retains this name. From 1307 it was named after St. Peter Martyr, the co-patron saint of Verona, with Zeno, and the first Dominican martyr -  an inquisitor assassinated by heretics in 1252. Not consecrated until 1471, the church was run by the Dominicans until 1808.


The doorway has an arch of impressive polychrome marble. The white, pink and grey-blue colours are repeated in the marble floor inside. The carved panels in the architrave directly over the two doors depict scenes from The Life of Christ. The relief panels to the right depict The Martyrdom of Saint Peter Martyr and the Miracle of the Cloud which shaded the saint as he preached. The series was to have been continued in the empty frames to the left of the door.

The interior, a nave and two aisles separated by six columns each side, strikes you first with the flower decoration of the vaulting. The oldest such ceiling decoration is from the 14th century and to be found in the transept and the first bay back up the nave, with the work getting later as the bays progress towards the back.
On the first column on the left there's a hunchback supporting a holy water font which is said to have been carved by Veronese's father Gabriele in 1495 (see right). There is no documentary evidence for this, however, and it seems that the painter's father was a humble stonecutter, with his heightened status as a sculptor a creation of Ridolfi.
The floor is original and is in the colours of the Dominican habit plus the blood of Christ (Verona marble). The position of the original tremezzo (screen) is visible in the messing up of the design on the paving across the church between the organ and the side entrance. The first four altars feature works by Francesco Morone, Nicolò Giolfino, Felice Brusasorci and Nicolò Giolfino again (The Descent of the Holy Spirit 1518) (with the lunette by Morone) respectively, and impressively.
After the big gilt organ is the Rosary Chapel, built by Domenico Curtoni in the late 16th century to celebrate the Venetian victory at Lapanto which the Company of the Rosary fought in. Two dark late-16th century paintings flank a lovely 1358/9 Lorenzo Veneziano altarpiece depicting the Madonna of Humility with Saints Peter and Dominic and Cangrande II and his wife Elisabetta (see far below right) formerly and traditionally ascribed to Giotto. Above there's a damaged dome painting, the Four Evangelists in the pendentives, and lunettes by Marcantonio Bassetti(?) 1586-1630 (The Assumption in the dome) a pupil of Felice Brusasorci.
Hanging in the next chapel, the Giusti, through a doorway in the left transept, is a ship's rudder, a trophy from the Battle of Lepanto, as well as works by Brusasorci (the distant altarpiece) and Balestra. Also a fresco by Giovanni Badile. Various works around the doorway into the Giusti chapel, including a fresco of Jacopo Beccucci (in armour) presented to the Virgin Mary by the Second Master of San Zeno from the 14th century, whose fresco work is to be found in the first of the east-end chapels too, called the Salerni chapel, which is the base of the campanile. The second, Lavagnoli chapel has three vivid Mantagna-influenced frescos on the left wall by Falconetti. The lower scene Jesus entering Caphernum features a self-portrait of the artist with his brushes.
The presbytery has, on the right wall, a Last Judgement full of congested queues by the Second Master of San Zeno and on the left the dominating Monument to Cortesia di Serego 1432 (see photo right) attributed to Pietro di Nicola Lamberti, with frescoes of city views, The Annunciation, and Saints Thomas Aquinas and Peter Martyr by the Venetian Michele Giambono. The whole is a multimedia feast of true fresco, a secco additions, painted stone, gilded pastiglie and silver laminate. The decoration of the ceiling vaults here was redone in the 19th century, the altar was  refurbished in 1952 and the windows depicting saints are from 1935.


The first chapel after the apse is the Pellegrini Chapel and is full of 24 terracotta reliefs of the Life of Christ, of 1436, originally polychromed, by Michele da Firenze, a pupil of Ghiberti. Over the arch to this chapel is the impressive Saint George and the Princess of 1434-38 by Pisanello (see above) commissioned in the will of Andrea Pellegrini in 1428. On the right side our hero is about to set out, watched by the Princess, whilst on the left (the other side of the arch) is the dragon, with the carcasses of animals that have been sacrificed to it. It has that characteristic courtly and tapestry-like look for which Pisanello is famous, and is worth all the neck-craning and binocular use you can manage. It is made of of 73 individual giornate, each signifying a day's work. Many preparatory drawings for figures and animals here exist. Pisanello also painted figures of Saint Eustace (stroking a dog) and Saint George (sheathing his sword) on the left and right piers respectively. These were described by Vasari, based on information provided by Fra Marco de' Medici, a friar here, but they are now lost. Only three examples of Pisanello's work in fresco survive, and two are in Verona, the other being at San Fermo. The shield with the punning image of the pilgrim (pellegrino), below right, is also by Pisanello. This fresco was taken down in the late 19th century to be displayed more visibly in the Giusti chapel, and this process sorely damaged it, especially the gilding of the horse trappings and Saint George's armour. It was later returned to this position, but was also taken down for an exhibition in the Castelvecchio museum in 1947.
The last chapel along the east end has, on the upper right wall, a fresco by Altichiero from 1370, the second of this church's must-sees. It depicts members of the commissioning Cavalli Family Presented to the Virgin by Saints George, Martin and James the Great. Altichiero's reputation rests largely on his work at the Santo in Padua, but Bernard Berenson in 'North Italian Painters of the Renaissance' expresses a distinct preference for the fresco here as a better indication of his skills. The other frescoes in this chapel are also 14th-century but are by other hands.  All of the east-end chapels have iron gates preventing clear views of the frescoes. The Cavilli Chapel can be better appreciated in the watercolour (see right © The Victoria & Albert Museum) painted for the Arundel Society by Edward Kaiser in the late 19th century.
The end of the right transept has the very decorated altar with Girolamo dai Libri's very Mantegna-influenced altarpiece of 1502-5 depicting the Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and the donors Cosimo Centrego and Orsolina Cipolla. The painted and coffered surrounding Roman-style architecture reflects that of the painting.
The next, Crucifix chapel is said to be the oldest part of the church being the site of original Lombard church dedicated to Sant'Anastasia, but it doesn't look it. To the left of the side entrance, above the confessional is an odd but Bellini-ish Mary Magdalene with Saints Catherine and Toscana of c.1491/2 by Liberale da Verona, (see right) who had been a pupil of Vincenzo di Stefano and of Jacopo Bellini when the latter had been in Verona in 1463 working in San Niccolò. (It used to hang in the third chapel on the right here, with other works by the same artist. This chapel now houses an 8th-century sculpted group of The Immaculate Conception taken from the church of Santa Maria di Chiavica). The next altar, the Pindemonte, is a grand and classical tribute to Verona's Roman Arco Gave by Maestro Francesco. Its altarpiece is a somewhat stiff Saint Martin and the Beggar of 1470 by Gianfrancesco Caroto, who had been a pupil of the just-discussed Liberale, who is responsible for the fresco lunette of c.1490 of The Deposition over the next, sculpted Bevilacqua-Lazise, altar. The final Fregoso altar, a memorial to Giano Fregoso, was carved in 1565 by Danese Cattaneo, a pupil of Sansovino, admired by Vasari.
This side's 'hunchback' supporting the holy water font dates from 1591, a century after the one opposite, and is the work of the oddly-named Paolo Orefice, whose last name actually means 'goldsmith'. Both of the hunchbacks were actually probably workers from the many mills along the Adige river nearby.

Finished in 1434 and un-Veronese in its being topped by a terrace and a ribbed cone and lacking pinnacles.

Opening times
Monday-Saturday 9.00 ­ 18.30
Sunday and holidays: 13.00 - 18.00
(November-February 10:00 opening, 17.00 closing and 13.00-13.30 closing on weekdays)

The small church to the left of Sant'Anastasia (visible in the lithograph below) is San Pietro Martire


 The Cavilli Chapel - a watercolour painted for the Arundel Society
by Edward Kaiser © The Victoria & Albert Museum

A lithograph from 1850


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