Hidden treasures

The laughing Statue of St Zeno in the Verona Basilica

Historical Curiosities

The laughing Statue of St Zeno in the Verona Basilica

Visitors to the city of Verona should not forget to plan a stop at the beautiful Romanesque church dedicated to the patron and 8th bishop of the city, St. Zeno.

The first church was built on the burial site of the Saint in the 4th century; it was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The present church dates back to 1138, following a devastating earthquake.

There is not much reliable information about St Zeno and much of his life has been shrouded in legends. It seems he was a native of Mauritania and for this reason he is often still referred to as 'the Black Bishop'. We do know, however, that he was the bishop of Verona from 362 to 380, the year of his death.

According to the hagiographic sources he lived in austerity and simplicity, so much so that he used to fish for his meals in the River Adige. For this he is considered the protector of the freshwater fishermen and is represented with minnows. He was cultured and erudite, educated at the school of African rhetoric.

His body is kept in the crypt under the main altar, while his most famous image is in the small apse to the left of the presbytery. It is a red coloured 12th century marble statue, painted by an anonymous artist and considered one of the icon most important icons of Verona! Looking at the statue, one is immediately struck by the fact that it is smiling, which is quite unusual for a saint. For this reason, the people from Verona affectionately call him 'the laughing St Zeno'.

In addition to the places of Romeo and Juliet, Verona has many surprises. If you are interested in a guided tour with a local expert guide we recommend our Your Own Verona: private guided tour of Verona, fully customizable according to your wishes!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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