Following a plague that afflicted Brescia between 1480 and 1484, there were rumours that a votive fresco depicting the Madonna and Child in front of a house in the San Nazario quarter had developed miraculous powers. On the wave of popular religious fervour, the Catholic church began negotiations in 1486 for the purchase of the house. In 1488, the construction of the Santa Maria dei Miracoli began.
The interior, but not the façade, of the church was severely damaged by bombardment during the Second World War. The exterior was protected by wooden scaffolding. The interior has been subsequently restored.
The church plan with its cylindrical anterior dome was designed by Ludovico Beretta before 1490. The most striking element is the elaborately decorated marble reliefs in the façade screen and portico designed by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, and completed with the help of a large number of sculptors, including the recently arrived Sanmicheli. The sculpted profusion recalls the Renaissance exterior of the Charterhouse of Pavia.
The porch, added later, is divided into four columns by straight grooves which rest all on one high base and supporting a rectangular tribune, in a turn topped by a narrow kiosk with triangular pediment. The interior is a square divided into three naves by pillars and columns, with a pentagonal apse.
The work of the Sanmicheli corresponding to the base level was the most refined of the façade, and was accomplished by the year 1500. Meanwhile, the religious building underwent rapid development, thanks to the growing number of worshippers and their alms, and was expanded to its current size. The architectural scores in the interior, characterized by decorative characters are attributed to Gasparo Cairano and his studio. The same sculptor also executed the cycle of the Apostles for the first dome, interspersed with the cycle of Angels by Tamagnino, all of which were delivered and paid for in 1489.
Over the centuries, the sanctuary was enriched by artistic works, mainly paintings, including a compelling canvas of St Nicholas of Bari presenting two children to the Virgin (1539) by Moretto, which is now in the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo. Grazio Cossali's frescoes on the Baptism of Christ and Adoration by the Shepherds are still in the church. The cycle of canvases of the Life of Jesus, painted by a number of artists including Tommaso Bona and Piermaria Bagnadore, is found in the presbytery.References:
Castle of Lorca (Castillo de Lorca) is a fortress of medieval origin constructed between the 9th and 15th centuries. It consists of a series of defensive structures that, during the Middle Ages, made the town and the fortress an impregnable point in the southeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. Lorca Castle was a key strategic point of contention between Christians and Muslims during the Reconquista.
Archaeological excavations have revealed that the site of the castle has been inhabited since Neolithic times.
It has not been determined exactly when a castle or fortress was first built on the hill. The first written documentation referring to a castle at Lorca is of Muslim origin, which in the 9th century, indicates that the city of Lurqa was an important town in the area ruled by Theudimer (Tudmir). During Muslim rule, Lorca Castle was an impregnable fortress and its interior was divided into two sections by the Espaldón Wall. In the western part, there was an area used to protect livestock and grain in times of danger. The eastern part had a neighbourhood called the barrio de Alcalá.
Lorca was conquered by the Castilian Infante Don Alfonso, the future Alfonso X, in 1244, and the fortress became a key defensive point against the Kingdom of Granada. For 250 years, Lorca Castle was a watchpoint on the border between the Christian kingdom of Murcia and the Muslim state of Granada.
Alfonso X ordered the construction of the towers known as the Alfonsina and Espolón Towers, and strengthened and fixed the walls. Hardly a trace of the Muslim fortress remained due to this reconstruction. Muslim traces remain in the foundation stones and the wall known as the muro del Espaldón.
The Jewish Quarter was found within the alcazaba, the Moorish fortification, separated from the rest of the city by its walls. The physical separation had the purpose of protecting the Jewish people in the town from harm, but also had the result of keeping Christians and Jews separate, with the Christians inhabiting the lower part of town.
The remains of the Jewish Quarter extended over an area of 5,700 square m, and 12 homes and a synagogue have been found; the synagogue dates from the 14th century and is the only one found in the Murcia. The streets of the town had an irregular layout, adapted to the landscape, and is divided into four terraces. The synagogue was in the central location, and around it were the homes. The homes were of rectangular shape, with various compartmentalized rooms. The living quarters were elevated and a common feature was benches attached to the walls, kitchens, stand for earthenware jars, or cupboards.
With the disappearance of the frontier after the conquest of Granada in 1492, Lorca Castle no longer became as important as before. With the expulsion of the Jews by order of Ferdinand and Isabella, Lorca Castle was also depopulated as a result. The castle was abandoned completely, and was almost a complete ruin by the 18th century. In the 19th century, the castle was refurbished due to the War of Spanish Independence. The walls and structures were repaired or modified and its medieval look changed. A battery of cannons was installed, for example, during this time. In 1931 Lorca Castle was declared a National Historic Monument.
Currently, a parador (luxury hotel) has been built within the castle. As a result, archaeological discoveries have been found, including the Jewish Quarter.