SANTA MARIA MAGGIORE, SQUARE

Audio File length: 2.29
English / USA Language: English / USA

Hi, my name’s Marcy, and I’m your personal guide. Along with MyWoWo, I’d like to welcome you to one of the wonders of the world: the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo.

You’re in Piazza Duomo, the square that was already the heart of the city in Roman Times, rich in history and extraordinary monuments. In addition to the Cathedral, with its white, eighteenth-century façade, also looking onto the square is the back of the centuries-old Palazzo della Ragione, and one side of the magnificent, stone Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. The richly decorated façade to the right of the entrance to the church is the Colleoni Chapel, a marvel of Renaissance architecture.

Before visiting Santa Maria Maggiore, I suggest you stop to admire the Baptistry to the right of the entrance, protected by a wrought iron gate. The Gothic style of this splendid eight-sided building is given a refined touch by the marble columns of the small loggia. It was not designed as a stand-alone building: it was constructed in 1340 inside the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, which was once the city’s Cathedral. At that time, it was a magnificent loggia in red and white marble, designed to protect the baptismal font.

It was subsequently taken apart and rebuilt here on the square at the end of the 19th century.

 

It’s important to remember that in sacred architecture, everything has a meaning. The Baptistry, where new lives are welcomed with the rite of baptism, is based on the number eight: eight sides, eight corners, eight female statues representing the Christian Virtues such as Faith, Hope and Charity. In addition, in early Christian times, the number eight represented new life.

 

An interesting fact: to the left of the portal of Santa Maria Maggiore, you’ll see a number of iron bars of various lengths fixed to the walls. What could their purpose have been? In the Middle Ages, there was no single standard unit of measurement, like the meter today, valid for everyone: each town had its own. So how could a weaver or a builder calculate the right measurements? Indicated here are the lengths valid for the city of Bergamo, so that anyone who had bought a piece of cloth and was afraid they’d been cheated could come and check here in the square!  

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