The Basilica of San Simpliciano is the second oldest church in the form of a Latin cross, first erected by Saint Ambrose. It is dedicated to Saint Simplician, bishop of Milan.
The site of the present church was occupied in the 3rd century AD by a pagan cemetery. There St. Ambrose began the construction of the Basilica Virginum ('Basilica of the Virgins'), which was finished by his successor Simplicianus, who was buried there. A brick with the mark of the Lombard King Agilulf shows that repairs were made between 590 and 615 AD.
In the ninth century the Cluniac Benedictines took possession of the church. In 1176 the church became famous when, according to the legend, the bodies of the martyrs housed here flew as doves to the field of Legnano, landing on the City's Carroccio, (a ceremonial war waggon) as a sign of the imminent victory against Frederick Barbarossa's army.
When the building was modified between the 12th and the 13th centuries, giving it the present Romanesque appearance, the original walls were preserved to a height of 22 meters. On the night of 6–7 April 1252 the body of Peter of Verona (later St. Peter Martyr) lay in state after his assassination. A great multitude came to watch vigil, and the origins of Peter's cult began, as people started to report miraculous occurrences. In 1517 it was acquired by the Benedictines of Montecassino, who remained here until 1798, when the convent was secularized and for a time turned into barracks. In the 16th century the Spanish governor Ferrante Gonzaga had the bell tower lowered by 25 meters. The dome and the side wings were also modified in 1582. Other interventions were carried out in the 19th century, with poor results, while the façade was reworked in 1870. In 1927 stained-glass windows portraying episodes of the battle of Legnano were added.
On the façade, the arcades that surmount the portals indicate the presence of an ancient portico, now disappeared. The upper part, the most modified in the 19th century, has two mullioned windows in the centre, an upper triple mullioned window and decorative arches. Late Renaissance mullioned windows also decorate the bell tower.
The interior is on the Latin cross plan, with a four-bay nave and two aisles. The transept is divided into two aisles.
The side chapels have decorations from various eras, from Renaissance to Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical. In the right transept is a painting by Alessandro Varotari (Il Padovanino) portraying the Defeat of the Cammolesi. Next to the apse entrance are saints frescoed by Aurelio Luini. The apse vault is decorated by what is considered Ambrogio da Fossano's masterwork, a wide Incoronation of Mary.
Also on the left of the apse is the entrance to the small sacellum dedicated to the Martyrs of Anaunia, not before the end of the fourth century, as in a passage in Maximus of Turin's Sermo 81 Maximus designates himself a witness of the martyrdom of three missionary priests in 397 at Anaunia in the Rhaetian Alps.
The western wall of the transept has a Marriage of the Virgin by Camillo Procaccini.References:
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.