Statue of Sant’Alessandro stands above Basilica entrance
One of the most important and beautiful churches in Bergamo, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza Duomo in the Città Alta, has so many fascinating architectural details that it is impossible to take them all in on your first visit.
The Basilica was built in the 12th century in the shape of a Greek cross but was modified in the 14th and 16th centuries.
The Basilica’s sacristry was demolished in the 15th century to make way for the Colleoni Chapel, which was built on the orders of Bergamo’s famous condottiero, Bartolomeo Colleoni, to house his own tomb.
The Colleoni Chapel, which stands next to Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza Duomo, was designed by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo to harmonise with the architecture of the Basilica and it has come to be acknowledged as one of the finest Renaissance buildings in Italy.
But the porch to the left of the Colleoni Chapel, one of two entrances to the Basilica, is just as architecturally beautiful and can certainly hold its own with the Colleoni Chapel.
The entrance to Santa Maria Maggiore from Piazza Duomo was built by the architect Giovanni di Campione between 1351 and 1353. Above the archway there is a loggia with three arched niches containing statues. The Saints Barnaba and Proitettizio stand on either side of a statue of Bergamo’s patron saint, Sant’Alessandro, who is on horseback. You have to look up before you ascend the steps to the Basilica or you will miss it.
Every year on 26 August Bergamo commemorates the date in 303 that Sant’Alessandro was martyred by the Romans for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.
|The porch is next to the Renaissance gem,
the Colleoni Chapel
It is believed Alessandro was a devout citizen who had continued to preach Christianity in Bergamo, despite several narrow escapes from the Romans, but that he was eventually caught and suffered decapitation.
A series of religious, cultural and gastronomic events take place in his name over several days at the end of August throughout the city, which is decorated with festive lights.
Porta Sant’Alessandro, the gate which leads from the Città Alta to Borgo Canale and San Vigilio, was built in the 16th century as part of a massive project to protect the historic upper town with defensive walls.
It was named after a fourth century cathedral that had originally been dedicated to the saint, but was later demolished by the occupying Venetian forces who were overseeing the rebuilding of the walls.