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 - there's just the portal. 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.
To the left is the entrance is the cemetery gate, over which is placed the tomb of Guglielmo de Castelbarco, a major financer of the enlargement of the church. It was drawn (see below right) and described by John Ruskin, not a man known for half measures, as 'the most perfect Gothic sepulchral monument in the World'. Late-19th-century restoration saw it topped with crude weather-proof canopy.
The interior, a nave and two aisles separated by six columns each side, strikes you first with the very Alpine style 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 nave between the organ and the side entrance. The first four altars feature works by Francesco Morone, Niccolò Giolfino (the Faella Altarpiece), Felice Brusasorci and Niccolò 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 Sacristy and Giusti Chapel, 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. Also 14th century frescoes by Boninsegna, including one of the Virgin with a mysterious naked saint with snakes around his legs.
The chapel just left of the presbytery, the Lavagnoli chapel has three vivid Mantagna-influenced frescos on the left wall by Falconetti. The lower scene Jesus Entering Capernum 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. Cortesia was a condottiere who was one of the assassins of Bartolomeo II della Scalla, but he's not actually buried here. Also 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, with a city very
much like Scaliger Verona in the background. This representation of the
city has been described as 'lucid delerium'. 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
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 exhibitions in the Castelvecchio museum in 1947 and
A plan of the convent and church from 1807
Cannaregio :: Castello :: Dorsoduro :: Giudecca :: San Marco :: San Polo :: Santa Croce :: The Islands :: Demolished