The Church of San Fermo Maggiore in Verona

In follow up to our previous article on the "tornacoro" of the Duomo of Verona, within that article we mentioned the rarity of this type of balustrade/screen which comes in semi-circular form and includes elements of both the paleochristian balustrade and medieval rood screen. We also noted that while it remains a rarity, there were some other places that were influenced by it and adopted a similar approach. One of those places is the church of San Fermo Maggiore which is also located in Verona and this shared architectural feature perhaps provides us with a good opportunity to look at a rather unique piece of sacred architecture more generally. 

To start with, the exterior the church has both Romanesque as well as gothic features and the construction of the church itself spans the eleventh through fifteenth century. 

The church is comprised of a lower church and an upper church. The lower church is effectively a crypt church while the upper church is the main liturgical space. 

Lower Church

Upper Church

As is the case of the tornacoro of the Duomo of Verona, the balustrade here too is designed in such a way as to provide people with a clear view of the high altar and its adjoining tabernacle. Like its counterpart, it also includes candlesticks along its top as well as a crucifix. 

The main altar itself is in the Renaissance Italian style -- which is to say, an altar with affixed gradines surmounted by altar candles and cross. As in the case of the duomo of Verona (and many other counter-reformation influenced churches in Italy for that matter) behind the altar within the aspidal space is the choir.

The church is decorated with various frescoes ranging in period from the medieval to others works from the early baroque. 

The church also includes an impressive late fourteenth century pulpit which is situated half way down the nave:

The ceiling of San Fermo is quite unique, taking the form of an inverted ship's hull; it has an almost oriental quality to it. Along it is found a series of four hundred and sixteen images of various saints as well as other ornamental designs coming in the form of vegetal motifs. 

The church also includes many side altars, but two in particular stand out to my mind, namely those found to either side of the high altar. These include altarpieces featuring crucifixion scenes, one from the gothic period and another taken from the late Renaissance or early baroque period. The altars themselves are in beautiful polychrome marbles.

Chapel of St. Anthony

Chapel of the Passion

To give you a sense of the span of art found within this particular church, here is a detail from the altar of St. Joseph which includes a beautiful painting of the Holy Family by the early baroque artist, Alessandro Turchi. 

In the lower church, by comparison, we can find this medieval depiction of the Baptism of Christ:

Finally, since we've turned our attention to the lower church, here are just a couple of more views of it, specifically of the altar and its corresponding crucifix.

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