The Museum of Santa Giulia (Italian: Museo di Santa Giulia) is the main museum of Brescia, located in via dei Musei 81/ b, along the ancient Roman decumano of the Roman Brixia. It is composed in its interior by the monastery of San Salvatore-Santa Giulia, built by the King of the Longobards Desiderio; In its more than one thousand years of history it has been expanded and modified on different occasions.
The area below the Museum is rich in archaeological finds from various periods, most of which belong to the Roman period and are well preserved, in particular the Domus dell’Ortaglia. All the structures of the ancient monastery are part of the museum, including the church of Santa Maria in Solario, the choir of the nuns and the church of Santa Giulia.
In the museum are preserved thousands of objects and works of art ranging from the Bronze Age to the nineteenth century coming mainly from the city context and the province of Brescia, which make it a real city museum, whose topics of study focus mainly on the history of the city of Brescia and its territory. Among the numerous works of art we mention especially the Vittoria Alata, the Croce di Desiderio, 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.
Sections of the museum:
Route 1: The history of the museum:
The route3 is dedicated to the fundamental phases of the religious, architectural and artistic history of the whole. In the environments are exposed materials belonging to different periods, according to a studied route that accompanies the visitor from the founding of the monasteries until its extinction (occurred at the end of the seventeenth century). In the tour you can also visit the main environments of the former monastery, which are the three churches and the choir of the nuns.
The history of the monastery:
The section is developed in three successive rooms of the old monastery and deepens, through objects, sculptures and paintings in the different chronological phases of the complex. The same rooms are relevant by themselves, covered with ribs supported by columns with capitals of large leaves; all done in the style of ‘400.
The church of Santa Maria in Solario:
The tour continues in the two rooms of the church of Santa Maria in Solario, built in the twelfth century using, both inside and outside, numerous Roman tombstones reused. In the lower room, for example, the central pillar that holds the four cross arches is nothing other than a large Roman altar dedicated to the Sun God.
The upper church is completely covered by an intense cycle of frescoes made by Floriano Ferramola between 1513 and 1524; besides some parts dated in the ‘400 and a great fresco of the’ 600. In the church there are two of the most important works of the museum: The Lipsanoteca and the Cross of Desiderio.
The church of San Salvatore:
In the church of San Salvatore, the ancient nucleus of the monastery preserved almost completely intact until our days, the most important artistic traces of the Lombardy and Brescia domination have been preserved and, indirectly, of its stage in the history of the whole. The church is accessed through the large room with columns that holds the Chorus of the nuns, where they are relevant pieces. The same church houses, on its walls, different works of art; among which we can highlight the strawberries of Romanino and Paolo Caylina the young.
The Nuns Choir:
The Nuns Choir, built under the facade of the church of San Salvatore in the second half of ‘400 to allow the nuns to hear the mass without seeing the faithful. It was completely covered with frescoes in the first half of the succeeding century by Floriano Ferramola, Paolo Caylina the Younger and other minor artists, probably from the workshop. The atmosphere is dedicated to the funeral monuments of Venetian age, of which excellent examples are collected, the most remarkable being the Martinengo Mausoleum.
The church of Santa Giulia:
Built by Giulio Todeschini between 1593 and 1599, the church of Santa Giulia concludes the succession of religious spaces containing, in a unique structure, the church of San Salvatore and the Chorus of the nuns. The church is on the outside of the exhibition route of the museum as it has become a conference room: therefore it is not impossible to visit. The church, therefore, was completely evicted from works of art and liturgical objects during the ‘800 and does not possess any object of historical or artistic interest beyond mere architecture. The only piece present in the porch of the duomo of Chiari, built in 1513 by Gasparo da Coirano, which was dismantled in 1846 and relocated to the interior part of the church’s façade in 1882.
Route 2: The city museum:
The Prehistoric and Protohistory:
The section, which takes place in the half-buried plane of the old monastery, illustrates the evolution of human settlements in the territory of Brescia since the third millennium BC. until the Iron Age. Presenting numerous objects discovered in the city and in the province.
The Roman Age:
The section of the museum dedicated to the Roman Age5 is divided into four sectors: the first dedicated to the Roman witnesses present in the territory; the second to the Roman domus dell’Ortaglia and the analogous pieces recovered in the city; the third to the tombstones and funerary objects and the fourth to the inscriptions. In the latter, in particular, numerous specimens of inscriptions of all kinds are preserved, dating from the first century BC. until the fifth century.
The Medieval High Age: Longobards and Carolingians:
The testimonies of the domination of the Longobards and the Carolingians, which took place in the city between the 6th and 11th centuries before the first birth of the Municipalities, are on display in the area. The exhibits are mainly warlike (weapons and clothing from tombs) and domestic (jewelry and everyday objects) as well as other objects of artistic and religious value, among which the beautiful Gallo de Ramperto stands out.
The Age of the Municipality and of the ‘Signorie’:
The section, dedicated to the Middle Ages, guards the artistic and cultural testimonies of the history of Brescia from the birth of the Municipality (1038) until the beginning of the domination of the Republic of Venice, passing through the period of the Signories (señorías) and of the government of the Visconti. In the various rooms, the pieces are divided in such a way as to illustrate the social and political organization of the temple city, grouping together the documents of economic, political and ecclesiastical power.
The Venetian age:
In this section the artistic pieces referring to the last phase of the history of Brescia, which was submitted to the dominion of the Republic of Venice between 1426 and 1797, are exhibited; when the institution was abolished by Napoleon Bonaparte and the citizen government passed to the Republic of Brescia.
The section is divided into two parts: the first safeguards the preferably sculptural works coming from the public citizen context, while the second focuses on objects of decoration and private nature, coming from the great noble palaces of the city.
The Santa Giulia Museum has a collection of several of Francesco Filippini’s most important works.
Since 2004, the foundation of Brescia Musei, in collaboration with other public and private companies and foundations, has started a series of exhibitions lasting about 5-6 months, focusing mainly on avant-garde painting of the ‘Nineteenth and twentieth century and other historical themes, including Monet, Giuseppe Amisani, Van Gogh, Matisse, Turner and Inca civilization, all returned to the great project called “Brescia – The splendor of art”.