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Inside the Basilica di San Zeno in Verona, Northern Italy. 
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Inside the Basilica di San Zeno in Verona, Northern Italy.

"Its fame rests partly on its architecture and partly upon the tradition that its crypt was the place of the marriage of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Together with the abbey which forms an annex, it is dedicated to St. Zeno of Verona.

St. Zeno died in 380. According to legend, over his tomb, along the Via Gallica, the first small church was erected by Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths. The history of the present basilican and the associated Benedictine monastery begins in the 9th century,when Bishop Ratoldus and King Pepin of Italy attended the translation of the saint's relics into the new church. This edifice was damaged or destroyed by a Magyar invasion in the early 10th century, at which time Zeno's body was moved to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Matricolare: it was soon moved back to its original site in what is now the crypt of the present church (May 21, 921).

In 967, a new Romanesque edifice was built by Bishop Raterius, with the financial assistance of the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto I. On January 3, 1117 the church was damaged by an earthquake, and as a result was restored and enlarged in 1138. The work was completed in 1398 with the reconstruction of the roof and of the Gothic-style apse. [...]

The interior of the church is on three levels with an extensive crypt on the lower level, the church proper and a raised presbytery. [...] The central church, known as Chiesa plebana, is of the Latin Cross shape with a nave, two aisles and transept. The aisles are divided by cruciform pilasters with alternating capitals with zoomorphic motifs and of Corinthian style. The walls above the colonnade are polychrome. The trefoil-arched wooden ceiling dates from the 14th century.".

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A capital of a column in the Basilica di San Zeno in VeronaA capital of a column in the Basilica di San Zeno in VeronaA detail of a fresco in the Basilica di San Zeno in Verona
Inside the Basilica of Sant’Andrea, a Roman Catholic co-cathedral and minor basilica in Mantua, Lombardy (Italy). 
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Inside the Basilica of Sant’Andrea, a Roman Catholic co-cathedral and minor basilica in Mantua, Lombardy (Italy).

"It is one of the major works of 15th century Renaissance architecture in Northern Italy. Commissioned by Ludovico II Gonzaga, the church was begun in 1462 according to designs by Leon Battista Alberti on a site occupied by a Benedictine monastery, of which the bell tower (1414) remains. The building, however, was finished only 328 years later. Though later changes and expansions altered Alberti’s design, the church is still considered to be one of Alberti’s most complete works.

The façade, built abutting a pre-existing bell tower (1414), is based on the scheme of the ancient Arch of Titus. It is largely a brick structure with hardened stucco used for the surface. It is defined by a large central arch, flanked by Corinthian pilasters. There are smaller openings to the right and left of the arch. A novel aspect of the design was the integration of a lower order, comprising the fluted Corinthian columns, with a giant order, comprising the taller, unfluted pilasters. The whole is surmounted by a pediment and above that a vaulted structure, the purpose of which is not exactly known, but presumably to shade the window opening into the church behind it.

An important aspect of Alberti’s design was the correspondence between the façade and the interior elevations, both elaborations of the triumphal arch motif. The nave of the interior is roofed by a barrel vault, one of the first times such a form was used in such a monumental scale since antiquity, and quite likely modeled on the Basilica of Maxentius in Rome. Alberti most likely had planned for the vault to be coffered, much like the smaller barrel vault in the entrance, but lack of funds led to the vault being constructed as a simple barrel vault with the coffers then being painted on. Originally, the building was planned without a transept, and possibly even without a dome. This phase of construction more or less ended in 1494.

In 1597, the lateral arms were added and the crypt finished. The massive dome (1732–1782) was designed by Filippo Juvarra, and the final decorations on the interior added under Paolo Pozzo and others in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The purpose of the new building was to contain the pilgrims who visited it during the feast of Ascension when a vial, that the faithful argue contains the Blood of Christ, is brought up from the crypt below through a hole in the floor directly under the dome. The relic, called Preziosissimo Sangue di Cristo ("Most Precious Blood of Christ"), is preserved in the Sacred Vessels, according to the tradition was brought to Mantua by the Roman centurion Longinus. It was highly venerated during the Renaissance. The shrines are displayed only on the Good Friday, to the faithful and then brought out along the streets of Mantua in a procession." (Text from Wikipedia).

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The Basilica of Sant’Andrea, Mantua
St. Lawrence's Basilica, believed to be the oldest church in Milan, northern Italy. 
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St. Lawrence's Basilica, believed to be the oldest church in Milan, northern Italy.

"The basilica is located within a city park called Basilicas Park, which includes both the Basilica of San Lorenzo and the Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio, as well as the Roman Colonne di San Lorenzo.

Various suggestions of its origin have been made, including a foundation in cca 370. The Basilica was renovated and redecorated in the 16th century, it has however maintained the original Byzantine structure, with a dome and four towers resembling those of Constantinople's Hagia Sofia. A recent detailed stratiographic study of the walls identified five phases of construction in antiquity from Theodosius I to the early Lombard period.

The church is a quatrefoil central-plan building, with a double-shell layout, consisting of an open central area (the inner shell) surrounded by an ambulatory (the outer shell). The quatrefoil design is expressed in four exedrae (semicircular recesses) of two stories, with five arches per exedra. As usual for the period, the interior had a matroneum (balcony for female worshippers), now partially disappeared. Also the polychrome interior decoration is now missing. The dome was also rebuilt in Baroque style after the original had crumbled down." (Text based on Wikipedia).

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San Lorenzo Basilica in MilanSan Lorenzo Basilica in Milan
The view of the interior of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice from the matroneum, the former women's gallery. 
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The view of the interior of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice from the matroneum, the former women's gallery.

"Venice for centuries was Europe’s principal gateway between the Orient and the West, so it should come as no surprise that the architectural style for the sumptuously Byzantine Basilica di San Marco, replete with five mosquelike bulbed domes, was borrowed from Constantinople. Legend has it that in 828, two enterprising Venetian merchants smuggled the remains of St. Mark the Evangelist from Egypt by packing them in pickled pork to bypass the scrutiny of Muslim guards. Thus, St. Mark replaced the Greek St. Theodore as Venice’s patron saint, and a small chapel was built on this spot in his honor. Through the centuries (much of what you see was constructed in the 11th c.), wealthy Venetian merchants and politicians alike vied with one another in donating gifts to expand and embellish this church, the saint’s final resting place and, with the adjacent Palazzo Ducale, a symbol of Venetian wealth and power. Exotic and mysterious, it is unlike any other Roman Catholic church. And so it is that the Basilica di San Marco earned its name as the Chiesa d’Oro (Golden Church), with a cavernous interior exquisitely gilded with Byzantine mosaics added over some 7 centuries and covering every inch of both ceiling and pavement." (John Moretti: Frommer's Northern Italy, 2006).
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Mosaics of St. Mark's Basilica in VeniceMosaics of St. Mark's Basilica in VeniceMosaics of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice5 euros per person to see the gallery of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice
Loggia dei Cavalli — the balcony on the front of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice with a fantastic view of St. Mark's Square. 
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Loggia dei Cavalli — the balcony on the front of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice with a fantastic view of St. Mark's Square.
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St. Mark's BasilicaSt. Mark's BasilicaSt. Mark's BasilicaBronze horses from the Loggia dei CavalliBronze horses from the Loggia dei Cavalli
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Thursday, Nov 2, 2017: On the walls of Palácio da Pena in Sintra, Portugal
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