Mantova: San Sebastiano

San Sebastiano.

From the Palazzo Te it was just a short walk to the church of San Sebastiano. The church was designed by the famous Renaissance architect Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472). Its construction started around 1460 and it was completed by Luca Fancelli (ca. 1430-1502) well after the death of the original architect. In 1529 the church was consecrated. The building is considered one of the very first Renaissance buildings. It has the shape of a Greek cross and a conspicuous façade, which by the way is only partially original. The stairs and the five openings in the façade were for instance only added in 1922-1925. The interior of the San Sebastiano is a huge void and there is basically no interesting art to discuss in this post. This should not come as a surprise: the San Sebastiano has not been used as a church for over a century. Its current purpose is something completely different.

The crypt of the church is a nowadays a famedio. This unique Italian word combines the words fama (fame) and aedes (temple). It follows that a famedio is basically a temple or memorial for famous people. Among these famous people are some of the Martyrs of Belfiore. These were Italian patriots who, in the nineteenth century, were involved in the resistance against Austrian oppression. Unfortunately they were arrested and subsequently condemned to death and hanged between 1852 and 1855. The executions took place in Belfiore, just west of Mantova, where we can now admire a monument for the martyrs. In the famedio I also found the names of Italians who fell during the First and Second World War. There were even a couple of wooden stakes, presumably used for executions by firing squad.

The empty interior of the church.

Opposite the San Sebastiano is the house where the painter Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) used to live, the Casa del Mantegna. Mantegna was the court painter of the Gonzaga family, the family that ruled over Mantova between 1328 and 1708. The painter had the house built in 1476 on the piece of land that Ludovico III Gonzaga had donated to him. When this Ludovico III was marquess of Mantova (1444-1478), Mantegna among other things painted the beautiful frescoes in the Camera degli Sposi. The house remained his property until 1502. Then he was forced to cede it to Francesco II Gonzaga, Ludovico’s grandson and marquess of Mantova between 1484 and 1519. The house is currently open to the public.

Casa di Mantegna.


Chiesa di S. Sebastiano detta Famedio, Largo XXIV Maggio – Mantova (MN) – Architetture – Lombardia Beni Culturali

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