San Salvatore Monastery

Brescia, Italy

San Salvatore (or Santa Giulia) is a former monastery in Brescia, now turned into a museum. The monastic complex is famous for the diversity of its architecture which include Roman remains and significant pre-Romanesque, Romanesque and Renaissance buildings. In 2011, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of a group of seven inscribed as Longobards in Italy, Places of Power (568-774 A.D.).

The monastery is traditionally considered the place where Desiderata, wife of Charlemagne and daughter of the Lombard King Desiderius, spent her exile after the annulment of her marriage in 771.

San Salvatore was founded in 753 by Desiderius, future king of the Lombards, and his wife Ansa, as a female monastery, his daughter Anselperga becoming the first abbess. After the Lombard defeat by Charlemagne, San Salvatore maintained its privileges as a royal institution, and enlarged its possessions.

Alfred the Great visited this monastery when he went to Rome in the 850s. He later founded his own monastery for nuns at Shaftesbury Abbey in Dorset, putting his own daughter in charge; although there is no clear evidence, it is possible he took this monastery as his inspiration.

In the 12th century most of the edifices were rebuilt or restored in the Romanesque style, and the oratory of Santa Maria in Solario was erected. In the 15th century all the structures were again restored and a dormitory was added. In 1599 the church of Santa Giulia was finished.

The monastery was suppressed in 1798 after the French invasion of Lombardy, and turned into barracks. It remained in poor condition until 1882, when it became a Museum of the Christian Age; the decay was however not totally halted before 1966, with a general restoration and the creation of a new Museum of Santa Giulia.


The Basilica of San Salvatore dates from around the 9th century. It has a nave and two apses, and is located over a pre-existing church, which had a single nave and three apses, and in turn was built over a Roman edifice dating from the 1st century BC, destroyed in the 5th century AD. The bell tower, rebuilt in the 13th-14th century, has frescoes by Romanino. The interior of the basilica houses frescoes by Paolo da Cailina the Younger, as well as other from the Carolingian age. The presbytery (converted in the 16th century) is a former nun choir built in 1466.Interior and frescoes Santa Maria in Solario.

The Oratory of Santa Maria in Solario was added in the 12th century. It has a square plan with an octagonal lantern and small arched loggia. The second floor is decorated with scenes of the life of Jesus.

Santa Giulia Church dates from the 16th century.

The museum includes ancient finds dating from the Bronze Age to Roman times. Among them is the 4th century ivory Brescia Casket and a 'Winged Victory' statue. There is also a plan probably showing the appearance of the Roman centre of Brixia at the time of Emperor Vespasian. The medieval section of the museum houses a crucifix alleged to have belonged to Desiderius. There are also architectural remnants from local buildings now destroyed, such as frescoes from the city's Broletto, a statue of St. Faustine and a fresco cycle by Moretto da Brescia.

Also visible in the complex are some Roman houses (domus), excavated beneath the former nuns' orchard.



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Founded: 753 AD
Category: Religious sites in Italy


4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Sibele Lazzaretti (2 years ago)
AMAZING MUSEUM!!! We paid 10€ per person. There’re lots of things to see and it’s all really organised.
Ana Trucolo (2 years ago)
Cool museum, with nice historical artifacts and ruins. It's really big, with lots of stuff to see.
Maurice Zwart (2 years ago)
10 euros for a large museum with very well excavated roman building.
Mohana Shankara Srinivas Duvvuri (2 years ago)
Very well preserved ancient ruins. Long to walk. May take more than 1 hrs for slow walk.
paolopolimi paolini (3 years ago)
In a country as Italy, it is difficult to rate archeo museums. Probably this is not a top destination, but if you are in the area it is worth a visit. Personally find Roman and Longbard exhibits the most interesting ones. Beside the exhibits, the quality of the organization is one of the best in Italy
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