Brescia: Santa Maria dei Miracoli

The Santa Maria dei Miracoli.

The church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli has perhaps the most beautiful facade of all the churches in Brescia. Especially the loggia that protrudes forward is simply splendid. The name of the church derives from an icon of the Virgin which was said to have worked miracles during a plague in the 1480s. The icon was originally part of the facade of a private residence, which was subsequently purchased by the Brescian comune. In this way, it also acquired the icon. Starting in 1488, a sanctuary was built in which the icon was to be placed. The sanctuary soon became immensely popular, and as a result it could be expanded into a proper church in later centuries.

I already mentioned that the church has a particularly nice facade. The loggia with the four columns and the delicate sculptural work was added in the sixteenth century, while the decorations that ‘crown’ the facade were put in place in 1560. The icon of Santa Maria dei Miracoli was originally part of the facade, but in 1581 it was moved inside, where we can now find it in the apse.

Judging by the facade, the church must have been a lot narrower once, for the simple fact that it does not cover the entire front of the building by a mile. The parts not covered by the facade are rather ugly: they are grey and completely undecorated. The enlargement of the church, in which it was made wider, took place in the seventeenth century. This has resulted in a building that is practically square in shape. Although the church is of modest size, the number of domes is remarkable: I counted two large ones and two smaller ones. The church also has a campanile.

Exterior of the church.

Interior of the church.

As a result of a bombardment in 1945, the interior of the church was almost completely lost. Fortunately there is still a lot to see, apart from the aforementioned icon. However, there are few real treasures among the paintings and sculptures. The church once possessed a work by the great Brescian painter Il Moretto (Alessandro Bonvicino; ca. 1498-1554/1564). This work, the Pala Rovelli from 1539, can now be found in the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo. This is a pity, and can lead to one conclusion only, i.e. that the one true highlight of the Santa Maria dei Miracoli is… its facade.

Sources

  • Information panel in front of the church;
  • Italian Wikipedia;
  • Turismo Brescia city map.

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