Church of San Salvaro, Legnago, Province of Verona, Veneto, Italy

Church of San Salvaro - Veneto About a mile west of Legnago, the last town crossed by the Adige river, half-hidden among the trees in the countryside of the hamlet of San Pietro, rises this austere ancient church, an important monument of Romanesque architecture in Veneto.


An ancient record, dated 989, mentions a donation from one Wualdo the the Seminary of Santa Maria Matricolare in Verona of some properties in "Leuniaco", bordering the Padusia water, the properties of San Salvaro, the Tartaro and the Ditch of San Pietro, where for the first time the name of the church appears.

A legend is also connected to the origin of the church: the daughter of a blind woman, while guarding her geese browsing along the border of the Ditch of San Pietro, saw a stately Lady under the sun. With her feet resting on the branches of a sambuco tree, she asked the girl if she could please ask her mother to fetch a mat to cover herself from the sun rays; the blind woman came carrying the mat, and "saw" the lady. In memory of the miracle, she had a wall built on the spot, and on it the apparition was painted. Devotion kept growing, and on the wall a crypt was first erected and later the whole church.

The church was possibly built in the early 12th century, as can be seen from an inscription in a stone outside the church that reads
(= Countess Matilda had this work done in 1117). This countess may actually be Mathilda of Canossa, who died 2 years before 1117.


The architecture is based on the number three: 3 levels (the crypt, the main floor, the prosbyterium), 3 naves, 3 apses, 6 arches inside to divide the main and side naves. In the crypt 3 central pillars support 4 separate vaults on which the higher church is founded. The construction is in bricks, alternating with some layers of tufa stones, and in the lower part of the main apse also layers of pebbles.

The inside is divided into 3 naves by means of 5 square pillars on each side, supporting 6 arches made of tufa and bricks. Red marble steps connect to the presbyterium, and two stairways connect the side naves to the smaller apses. The main apse is decorated with themes of the Redemption, with frescoes by Daniele dal Pozzo from Verona. The central nave is much wider than the side naves, which is considered to be a Roman influence, as can also be seen in the Cathedral of Brescia, or of the Byzanthine architecture in Ravenna. In the altar in the central nave is a statue of the Saviour (Salvaro may be a variation of Salvatore).

The Crypt

This is the most interesting part of the church, and can be reached through stairs from the two upper side naves. Three central pillars divide the crypt into 4 small naves, the 2 central naves ending into one apse, and the two side naves into one small apse each.

On the vault of the crypt, exactly below the main upper floor, is an ancient fresco representing the Madonna of San Salvaro. To build the crypts Roman fragments were reused, as can be seen in the Corynthian capitels of 2 pillars and in a decoration with the inscription: (IU)lius (or (Aemi)lius) P(auli) f(ilius), the name of the Roman who had a temple built on the site. Roman relics are also in the façade, where a lion and horse chase each other.