The choir allowed the cloistered nuns to attend the religious services held in the church of San Salvatore. The walls were covered in frescoes – with an iconographic theme inspired by the concept of salvation – painted by various artists between the 1520s and 1550s.
A splendid frescoed chamber where the Benedictine nuns of the Santa Giulia convent took part, hidden from view, in religious functions – was opened to the public in 2002 after a lengthy period of restoration and preparatory work, and thus became part of the Santa Giulia Museum.
This sumptuous place of worship, with two floors, was built in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The east and side walls are richly decorated with frescos by Floriano Ferramola and Paolo da Caylina the Younger.
The iconographic scheme was inspired by the theme of salvation, illustrated by scenes from Jesus’ childhood, the Passion, the Resurrection and other related subjects, separated by devotional images. The sequence of episodes forms a meditative or processional series which has also a didactic purpose, and is enriched by lively and engaging details. The overall effect is harmonious, strikingly coloured and highly evocative.
One of the most interesting works on display in this section of the museum is the great Martinengo Mausoleum, a masterpiece of sculpture and one of Lombardy’s finest Renaissance pieces.
The choir is overlooked by a monumental “Crucifixion” on the end wall, painted by the Brescian artist Floriano Ferramola (1525-27).
Santa Giulia museum
The Museum of Santa Giulia is the main museum in Brescia, located in via dei Musei 81 / b, along the ancient decumanus of the Roman Brixia. It is housed inside the monastery of Santa Giulia, built by King Desiderio in the Lombard era and variously enlarged and modified in more than a thousand years of history. The City Museum, unique in its design and location – a monastic complex of Lombard foundation – and with display areas covering 14,000 m², offers a journey through Brescia’s history, art and spirituality from prehistoric times to the present day.
The Benedictine convent of San Salvatore – Santa Giulia was founded in 753 by the last Lombard king, Desiderius, and his wife Ansa and occupied a role of great religious, political and economic importance, which continued after the Lombards’ defeat by Charlemagne. According to tradition, the dramatic story of Ermengarda, daughter of Desiderius and rejected bride of the Frankish emperor, was played out here; it was recounted by Manzoni in Adelchi.
The area below the Museum is rich in archaeological finds from various eras, mostly belonging to the Roman era and well preserved, in particular the Domus of Ortaglia. The museum includes all the structures of the ancient monastery, including the church of Santa Maria in Solario, the choir of the nuns and the church of Santa Giulia. The site is composed of parts from many different epochs: a stratification of memories and a continual source of unexpected discoveries. The complex was built on the ruins of impressive Roman town houses and includes the Lombard church of San Salvatore and its crypt, the Romanesque Santa Maria in Solario, the Nuns’ Choir, the sixteenth-century church of Santa Giulia and the monastery cloisters. It is the perfect location for the City Museum and the natural focal point for a visit to Brescia.
The Museum’s special distinguishing feature is the close relationship between the historic buildings and the objects on display, which number about 11,000 and include Celtic helmets and horse harness ornaments, Roman portraits and bronze sculptures, Lombard items, grave goods, frescos, an applied art collection and artefacts dating from the medieval period to the 18th century AD. The Winged Victory, the city’s symbol, is a large bronze statue from the Capitolium. Recent studies have shed new light on the sculpture’s history and the life of ancient Brixia.
Thousands of objects and works of art from the Bronze Age to the nineteenth century are preserved in the museum, mainly from the city context and the province of Brescia, which make it a real city museum, whose in-depth themes mainly concern the history of the city of Brescia and its territory. The numerous works of art include the Winged Victory, the Desiderio Cross, the Lipsanoteca and the “Collectibles and Applied Arts” sector, where all the private collections donated to the museum between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are kept.