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San Giorgio in Braida church

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San Giorgio in Braida
San Giorgio in Braida's church is one of the most evocative historical site in the Verona area beyond the bend of the river Adige, thanks to its characteristic Renaissance dome and the gorgeous bell tower, both by Michele Sanmicheli.
It is likely that a more ancient church already existed on the site in the 8th century that was later enlarged into a Benedictine monastery in the second half of the 9th century. The name "braida" derives from a germanic word, breit, that means broad, wide, and used in the local dialect in Verona as a common name for an open space, a widening or more specifically the large open area that there used to be at those times at this precise point beside the city walls.The church and the adjoining monastery have been re-worked and enlarged over the centuries and traces of those works are still visible in the walls structure and in the remains of more recent towers. The construction of the church as it is today began in 1477 by initiative of the monks of San Giorgio in Alga Venetians who had taken over the possession of the structure.
 
San Giorgio in Braida in Verona - view from Adige River
 

San Giorgio church by night
 
It was Michele Sanmicheli who designed the harmonious rearrangement of the interior divided in eight side chapels which occupied the space of the narrow and low aisles of the pre-existing church. The central drum too is by Michele Sanmicheli: high and bright, topped by a beautiful dome, it is a rare example of this type of Renaissance architecture in Verona. The bell tower was designed by Sanmicheli, which created a sort of ideal connection to the tower of the Cathedral which is located on the opposite bank of the Adige precisely in front of San Giorgio.
The facade of the church is more recent, dating back to the seventeenth century, characterized by an elegant serliana and balustrade. Beside the main building of the church there is a cottage which dates back to 1791. If you pay attention you will notice some signs on the front, left by bullets during the clashes between the French and Austrians who occupied the opposite banks of the Adige river after the agreements of 1805 which divided Northern Italy.
 
San Giorgio in Braida in Verona from the Adige River
 
Goethe, when passing through Verona during his famous journey in Italy, called the church of San Giorgio a wonderful art gallery for the amount of large blades that adorn its big, single aisle.
The Venetian influence is evident from the choice of the works of the artists that decorate the church, as this style can be clearly identified. The entrance is surmounted by a large painting by Tintoretto, the Baptism of Christ, in which we can recognize the typical dark atmosphere of the great Venetian master. Tintoretto's son, Domenico, too is among the artists chosen to decorate the church with one of his works: The Pentecoste. There are also artists fromVerona to enrich the list of works, including Caroto, Brusasorci and Girolamo dai Libri, with a Madonna on a throne beside the patron saint of San Zeno in Verona and San Lorenzo Giustiniani. The elegance of the drawing, the refinement of the technique and some solutions that are typical of an austere Renaissance rigor make it one of the masterpieces of this great master of Verona, still unfairly undervaluated.
 
 
Part of the facade of San Giorgio in Braida - from Piazzetta S. Giorgio

The masterpiece of the church, however, is the great altarpiece of the martyrdom of St. George, painted by Paolo Caliari known as Il Veronese (the one from Verona). The work, still little known, is a real masterpiece: while we are used to representations of a proud knight St. George in the act of defeating the dragon, in this case Il Veronese chooses to represent the helpless humanity of the saint in the moment of martyrdom. The scene is filled with great emotion and pathos, stressed by the use of light and the postures of the characters, whose representation Paolo Caliari was unsurpassed master.

 

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