Vicenza, Italy: The Basilica Palladiana & Sanctuary of Monte Berico
Located in Northeastern Italy, Vicenza is known not so much for its religious significance but for its architecture and location. The city has a population of about 115,000 and is exceptional in much of its architecture, especially the work Andrea Palladio, who left his imprint on many buildings in Italy. In the 16th Century it was found that the building housing the municipal offices and shops in the central piazza was collapsing. A competition was held in which many architects presented plans to restore the building and Palladio won the right to re-construct the building in 1549. What made his plan unique was the addition of a new outer shell done in marble to form a loggia (similar to a portico) and not only support the crumbling structure but give it an entirely new look in the classical style. This look has now become known as the Palladian window, which earned him renown throughout the country and led to many others done in the same style. The resulting look is one of the most famous buildings in the city.
Among several beautiful churches in the city is the Basilica of Saints Felice and Fortunato, who were martyred under the reign of Diocletian sometime in the third Century. There was a church built here in the fourth Century A.D. to house the remains of these two saints and there are traces even today, of the original structure, including some mosaics, despite the ravages of invading hoards and some bomb damage from both World Wars.
A hint: when you walk in the church, just to the right is a small door that will take you down to the original structure. It is not well-marked and easily missed by the casual visitor, but is more than worth the 2 Euro charge. We are not aware of any official website for the Basilica.
Another church is the Sanctuary of Monte Berico, built in thanksgiving to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who reportedly appeared twice to a local woman in the 15th Century. The Blessed Mother promised to end a plague that was ravaging the country if a church was built here in her honor. There is a statue of Our Lady near the altar that is supposedly the very spot on which she stood during the apparition. There are daily Masses, Confessions and Rosary.
Click here for the official website of the Basilica of Monte Berico.
Traveling to Vicenza:
As noted earlier, Vicenza makes an excellent home base for day trips to such cities as Venice and Padua. There are frequent trains from Venice (about 1 hour) and Milan (taking about 2 hours). Get train & bus schedules, see fares & buy tickets here.