Verona Museum of Frescoes
What to see, timetables and prices
Located in a suggestive former convent of the Franciscan Sisters, the Fresco Museum is a jewel that houses masterpieces made between the 10th and 16th centuries.
A few steps from the Arena of Verona, in a side street of Via del Pontiere, there is a museum of frescoes dedicated to Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle, considered the founder of modern Art History in Italy. The museum stands where there once was a church (S. Francesco al Corso, built in 1230) and a Franciscan convent. Following the transfer of the friars to a more prestigious convent, the religious people of the monastery of Santa Maria di Zevio took possession of it. In the following years, the convent fell into abandonment and it was only in 1548 that the so-called French girls were hosted there: women without dowry, ill-treated or abandoned. In 1624 a lightning struck the powder keg in the nearby Torre di Paglia and the explosion that ensued damaged many surrounding buildings, including the church. During the Napoleonic period, the complex was converted for military use and in the years of the Second World War was almost destroyed. It was only in the 1960s that the church and convent were restored to house the museum that we can visit today.
Verona fresco museum: what to see
Entering the museum complex, there are some fragments of frescoes dating back to the fourteenth century, depicting saints or other scenes. At that time, local painters used to fresco the walls of the churches of the city with themes such as the Madonna with the child and saints, while the private houses were decorated with geometric motifs and with very bright colors.
The exhibition itinerary is in chronological order, you can admire frescoes from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the sixteenth century, and from the years from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century. Besides, you can visit the Church of S. Francesco, or rather the reconstruction of the original one that was destroyed, inside which paintings and tables of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are exhibited. Among these, you can see the Lavender of the Feet, the Crucifixion and the Three Archangels by Giovanni Francesco Caroto and the Annunciation by Girolamo Bonsignori.
In the underground crypt of the church, there is the famous tomb of Giulietta Capuleti, which, according to a tradition dating back to the 16th century, is said to be the burial place of the unfortunate Shakespearean protagonist. The sarcophagus has become a destination for continuous pilgrimages and, in the past, it has been honored by many famous people, such as George Byron and Maria Luisa of Austria.
You can also visit the external courtyard and the lapidarium, which includes epigraphs and decorative elements from churches, convents and palaces which were at that time demolished or destroyed by natural events. The frescoes and decorations in the museum, therefore, were detached from the walls of buildings and churches of the city between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when Verona was called “urbs picta” (painted city) for a large number of frescoed facades.
The collections of the Verona Museum of Frescoes
Various collections can be visited inside the museum including medieval sculptures, the chapel of Saints Nazaro and Celso, murals from the early 14th century from Verona, portraits on stone and wood and many others. Among the medieval sculptures, you will see fragmentary slabs of the Lombard period, portions of decorated arches, capitals and ornamental elements.
Some fragments of painting can still be seen from the sacellum of Saints Nazaro and Celso, a rock complex dating back to the early Christian period. The walls of the cave were covered by two overlapping layers of frescoes. Five fragments of the oldest ones can still be seen, while a larger number of frescoes influenced by Venetian-Byzantine painting and mosaic and the western Romanesque miniature can be admired.
Another collection consists of eleven sub-arches with portraits of Roman emperors, commissioned by Cansignorio della Scala and intended to decorate a hall of the family palace. These portraits must have been designed to create a sort of genealogy, which ended with the representations of the Scaliger lords.
One of the most remarkable pieces inside the museum is the ornament frescoed by Jacopo Ligozzi, representing the Cavalcade of Charles V and Clement VII in Bologna in 1530, intended to adorn a room in Palazzo Fumanelli, and then detached and donated to the civic museums at the end of the nineteenth century. There is also a cycle depicting the story of Moses, created in 1584 by the Veronese painters Felice Brusasorzi, Anselmo Canera and Paolo Farinati. The three large canvases illustrate three moments: the finding of Moses, the Outrage to Pharaoh and Moses defending Jetro’s daughters.
In addition to the aforementioned works, there are many other frescoes, painted ceramics and bronzes from the Renaissance, all of them with invaluable historical and artistic relevance.
The whole exhibition is accompanied by illustrative texts and captions, and there are also multimedia tools that provide information on the history of the city.