The Venetian period

In 1405 Verona became part of the territories of the Serenissima Republic of Venice and it remained that way for almost four centuries. The Venetian rule has left behind numerous winged lions that can be found in the city centre on top of tall columns, above doorways, on palaces and in squares: the lion of St. Mark spread its wings over an era of wealth and economic and cultural splendour, rich in architectural, painting and artistic expressions in general. Thanks to painters such as Mantegna and Paolo Veronese, and architects the like of Michele Sanmicheli, Verona was embellished with grandiose palaces, fortifications with sober and mighty lines, impressive public buildings and works of rare elegance. As far as painting is concerned, the Veronese Renaissance was a rich and opulent era and it conventionally began in 1465, the year when Andrea Mantegna created the famous Pala Correr which can still be admired on the main altar of the church of San Zeno. It is precisely at this time that Verona started being called urbs picta (painted city) thanks to the abundance and quality of the frescoes that adorned the façades of buildings. Michele Sanmicheli designed and realized some of the buildings that are still among the most elegant of Verona such as Palazzo Canossa and Palazzo Bevilacqua on Corso Cavour, Palazzo degli Honorii on Piazza Brà, and Palazzo Pompei on the Lungadige Porta Vittoria river bank. He was also assigned the design and construction of three gates to protect the city, Porta San Zeno, Porta Nuova and Porta Palio. Inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, in 1527 he built the Cappella Pellegrini in the church of San Bernardino. Piazza Erbe and the surrounding areas also display many pleasant traces of the Venetian period: the Mazzanti houses, decorated with frescoes with clear Mannerist influences, and the Baroque Palazzo Maffei whose façade, richly decorated with friezes and statues, always displays the shadow of the Lion of Saint Mark that rests proudly on a tall column right in front of it. On the other side of the square there is what originally was the Jewish Ghetto, with its tall and narrow houses, which was established following the laws issued by the Serenissima at the beginning of the 16th century. The north side of Piazza dei Signori is home to the graceful and light first Renaissance building of the Veneto region: the Loggia del Consiglio with a façade rich in paintings and decorations.  In the same square, also from the Venetian era, we can find the buche del leone where citizens could lodge complaints against usurers, smugglers, conspirators, and against whoever traded silk outside of the Venetian monopoly. Numerous winged lions watched over Verona, important and rich Venetian outpost in the mainland; some have survived the centuries intact, others are only a trace clinging to a brick wall. But they all convey the might of Venice, one of the largest and most prosperous cities of the known world at that time.