Both pilgrims and tourists arriving in Verona can not help but admire the view of the historic centre with the large structure of the Cathedral of Verona, crowned with pinnacles and it’s large bell tower rising over the rooftops. The Cathedral of S.Maria Assunta is one of the buildings that make up the unmistakable landscape of the city, along with the Basilica of St Zeno, the symbol of Christian Verona. Located in the oldest Roman suburb, the Cathedral of S Maria Assunta, stands as a symbol of fortitude, as history has repeatedly shown it has to battle devastation and rebuild itself up again and again, each time even larger and brighter.
Verona Cathedral, simply known as Duomo di Verona, was built in 1117-1138 with many more renovations coming later. The complete interior was remodeled in Gothic style during the 15th and 16th centuries with the addition of the side chapels and the semicircular choir screen. In 1880 the floor was redone in black and white marble. The new presbyterial area was inaugurated by Pope John Paul II in 1988 .The restoration of the wooden pews, frescoes and the lighting system was only completed in 2002.
The modern-day Cathedral is the fourth Cathedral of Verona, the original, modest building, consecrated by St Zeno in 380 AD, but it soon turned out to be too small and a few decades later it was replaced by a larger basilica, it was situated on the site just north of the present day Cathedral of Verona. The second Cathedral collapsed due to an earthquake or strong fire, probably in the 7th century and rebuilt on its present site during the 8th-9th centuries, Archdeacon Pacifico was in charge of the reconstruction of the church, and the Cathedral, known by the name of S. Maria Matricolare, was built further south, on the area on which it is situated today. This Cathedral was destroyed in the earthquake which devastated Verona in 1117, rebuilding had to begin yet again and lasted at least 20 years. Mosaic pavements from these ancient churches can still be seen beneath the Church of St. Elena and the Canons’ Cloister.
The Cathedral we see today is a structure made up of centuries of changes, both in location and in architectural styles, not just a single building but a complex which also includes S. Giovanni in Fonte, S.Elena, the cloister of the canons, the Chapter Library and the square in front of the Bishop’s Palace.
Inside the church of S. Elena there are the archaeological remains of the first part of the early Christian Basilica. Excavations under the church of St.Zeno (362-372) shows the area of the presbytery, raised above the rest of the church equipped with heating, and the mosaic decoration of the podium in front of the synthronon and the base of some of the columns dividing the aisles.
During the Roman Empire, in the area of the present-day church, there were villas with private thermal baths (balnea) and probably also a few small temples.
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