Basilica of Sant'Andrea, Mantua
|Basilica di Sant'Andrea|
Facade and belltower
|Ecclesiastical or organizational status||Minor basilica, co-cathedral|
|Leadership||Bishop Roberto Busti|
|Architect(s)||Leon Battista Alberti|
The Basilica of Sant'Andrea is 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 III Gonzaga, the church was begun in 1472 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 only finished 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. It looms over the Piazza Mantegna.
The façade, built abutting a pre-existing bell tower (1414), is based on the scheme of the ancient Arch of Trajan at Ancona. 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 arcades, like the facade, having alternating high arches and much lower square topped openings.
The nave is roofed by a barrel vault, one of the first times such a form was used in such a monumental scale since antiquity, and probably modeled on the Basilica of Maxentius in Rome. Alberti possibly planned for the vault to be coffered, much like the shorter barrel vault of 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.
Elements of the arches on the lateral façade. Photo by Paolo Monti
Relic of the Holy Blood
The purpose of the new building was to receive 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, who had scooped up the earth containing the blood.
The first discover was dated to the year 804 when the Roman emperor St Charlemagne asked and obtained by Pope Leo III the official authentication and license for veneration in all the Roman Catholic Church. According to many scholars, Mantua become a diocese and in the place of the discovery was edificated the first nucleus of the odiern Cathedral of St Andrew. The relic was "rediscovered" (secunda inventio) ca. 1049, at the presence of Matilda of Tuscany. Pope Leo IX recognized this relic as authentic in 1053. 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.
Some portions of the precious relic were translation by Charlemagne to the St Chapelle in Paris, and later to the Weingarten Abbey, to the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, and to the Church of the Holy Cross in the Guastalla (built on behalf of Beatrix of Canossa).
Alberti broke with basilican tradition by having multiple chapels branch off the nave instead of lining it with aisles—because the colonnades would block the view of ceremonies in the classic model. One of the chapels is known as the Mantegna funerary chapel, since it houses the tomb of the early Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna, with a bronze figure of him by Gianmarco Cavalli and Mantegna's own Holy Family. Other artworks in the chapels include frescoes of Giulio Romano's school (a work by Giulio is currently a copy) and Correggio. In the belltower there are five bells (A, C#, E, F#, A) cast in the 19th century.
- Basilica Concattedrale di S. Andrea - complesso
- Basilica di S. Andrea Apostolo on GCatholic.org
- Franco Borsi. Leon Battista Alberti. (New York: Harper & Row, 1977)
- "Most Precious Blood and Sacred Vessels". Roman Catholic Diocese of Mantua (in Italian). Archived from the original on December 23, 2018. Retrieved Dec 23, 2018.
- Luigi Pescasio; Paolo Bertelli (Jun 1, 2005). Enciclopedia delle curiosità mantovane. archive.org (in Italian). Vidiemme. pp. 137–138. Archived from the original on December 7, 2018. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
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- De La Croix, Horst; Tansey, Richard G.; Kirkpatrick, Diane. Gardner's Art Through the Ages (9th ed.). Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. p. 612. ISBN 0155037692.
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- Il Sant'Andrea di Mantova e Leon Battista Alberti (in Italian). Mantova: Ed. della Bibl. Comunale. 1974. OCLC 2549495.
- La reliquia del sangue di Cristo: Mantova, l'Italia e l'Europa ad tempo di Leone IX, ed. Glauco Maria Cantarella, Verona: Scripta, 2012.
- Alberti's Sant' Andrea in Mantua, Heather Horton, article at Smarthistory
- Basilica Concattedrale di S. Andrea - complesso (in Italian)
- Mantua tourist guide Mantua tourist guide
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