Santa Maria Maggiore was founded in 1137 on the site of another church from the 8th century dedicated to St Mary, which had been in turn erected over a Roman temple of the Clemence. The high altar was consecrated in 1185 and in 1187 the presbytery and the transept wings were completed. Due to financial troubles, the works dragged for the whole 13th–14th centuries. The bell tower was built from 1436 (being completed around the end of the century), while in 1481–1491 a new sacristy added after the old one had been destroyed by Bartolomeo Colleoni to erect his personal mausoleum, the Colleoni Chapel.
In 1521, Pietro Isabello finished the south-western portal, also known as Porta della Fontana. The edifice was restored and modified in the 17th century.
The church opens on the square (Piazza Duomo) on its own left side, as the main façade has no entrance, being once united to the Bishops' Palace. The external appearance has largely maintained its Lombard Romanesque origins. The church can be accessed by two entrances by Giovanni da Campione (1353) and by Isabello's Porta della Fontana.
The main apse is crowned by a loggia surmounted by two frieze with geometrical and vegetables patterns, and has blind arcades with semi-columns. The latter's capitals have also vegetable themes, with the exception of one, decorated by Angels with Last Judgement's Trumpets. The transept's apses have a structure similar to the main one.
Notable is Giovanni da Campione's porch in the left transept, which is supported by columns departing from lions in Veronese marble. the arch has a frieze with hunting scenes, while the vault is decorated by polychrome lozenges. A loggia houses statues of St Barbara, St Vincent and St Alexander. At the peak is a Gothic niche by Hans von Fernach (1403), with the Madonna with Child flanked by St Esther and St Grata (1398). also by Giovanni da Campione is the porch of the right transept, with a similar though simpler structure. The columns are supported by lions in white marble. It has reliefs with Christ Crowned by Saints and Birth of the Baptist.
Isabello's Renaissance porch has, in the lunette, a fresco of Mary's Nativity attributed to Andrea Previtali.
The interior has maintained the original Romanesque Greek cross plan, with a nave and two aisles divided by piers and ending with an apse, but the decoration its largely from the 17th century Baroque renovation.
On the walls are tapestries, partly executed in Florence (1583–1586) under Alessandro Allori's design, partly of Flemish manufacture, depicting the Life of Mary. Over the tapestry of the Crucifixion (executed in Antwerp on Ludwig van Schoor's cartoons, 1698) is a painting by Luca Giordano, with the Passage of the Red Sea (1691).
Left to the entrance is the sepulchre of Cardinal Guglielmo Longhi, work by Ugo da Campione (1913–1320). On the rear wall are the tomb of the composer Gaetano Donizetti, by Vincenzo Vela (1855) and that of the latter's master Simone Mayr (1852). At the beginning of the left aisle is the Baroque confessional carved by Andrea Fantoni in 1704. A crucifix from the 14th century is on the presbytery's balaustrade.
In the presbytery itself, housing six bronze candelabra from 1597, is a wooden choir designed by Bernardo Zenale and Andrea Previtali. The reliefs with Biblical tales were executed in 1524–1555 on designs by Lorenzo Lotto. They are characterized by a polychrome effect rendered through the use of different wood types.
The right transepts has Giottesque frescoes from an unknown artist, with Histories of St Aegidius, The Last Supper and the Tree of Life (1347), partially covered by a 17th-century fresco.References:
The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.
A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.
In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.
In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.
In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.
From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.
In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.
The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.
In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.
The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.