The Basilica of Sant’Andrea is a Renaissance church in Mantua, located in Piazza Andrea Mantegna. Inside the crypt of the basilica, two reliquaries with earth soaked in the Precious Blood of Christ are preserved.
MOST PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST
According to tradition, the Roman centurion Longinus pierced the side of the crucified Jesus with the Sacred Spear to ascertain whether He was dead or not. The soldier collected some of the blood in a vessel and returned to Italy. He stopped in Mantua in 37 AD, burying the precious relic in a small box, with the inscription Jesu Christi Sanguis on it.
In the year 804, the small box next to his tomb was unearthed and the relic was officially recognized by the Catholic Church and approved for worship by Pope Leo III. Particles of the Precious Blood were transfered to the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, to the Church of Santa Croce in Guastalla, to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome and to the Abbey of Saint Martin in Weingarten.
A first church dedicated to Sant’Andrea was built on this site in 1046 at the behest of Beatrice of Lotharingia, mother of Matilde di Canossa, following the discovery of the relic of the Blood of Christ.
The building, completed in 1055, was built on the ruins of the Hospital of Sant’Andrea and adjacent to the monastery, built by Bishop Itolfo in 1037.
With the discovery of a second relic in 1049, the Benedictine monastery was rebuilt. The only remains currently visible are the Gothic bell tower and one side of the cloister.
The last rebuilding of the church was initiated in 1472, on a project by the architect Leon Battista Alberti, commissioned by Ludovico III Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua.
The chapels of the church were completed in 1482 and the facade in 1488. The works were stopped in 1494 and resumed only in 1530. In 1597, the lateral arms were added and the crypt completed. The dome, 80 meters high and with a diameter of 25 meters, one of the largest in Italy, was built in 1732 by Filippo Juvarra.
The monumental facade is based on the scheme of a Roman triumphal arch, superimposed on the theme of a classical temple.
The large central arch is framed by Corinthian pilasters that extend for the entire height of the facade. On the sides of the arch, there are two superimposed niches between Corinthian pilasters, above the two side portals.
The interior of the church has a Latin cross plan, with a single barrel-vaulted nave with coffers, and with lateral chapels with a rectangular base. Behind the altar, there is a deep apse that closes the space of the nave.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Basilica of Sant’Andrea is located about 1 kilometer away from the Mantua railway station. The closest bus stop is Verdi, about 80 meters away, on the bus Line CC.