Ludovico III Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, commissioned the construction of the Church of San Sebastiano to the architect Leon Battista Alberti. Alberti, ten years later, designed also the magnificent Basilica of Sant’Andrea for the same member of the Gonzaga family.
The construction of the church was begun around 1460 by Alberti, but was completed after the death of the architect by Luca Fancelli, at the beginning of the 16th century. Fancelli also completed Alberti’s other project, the Basilica of Sant’Andrea.
The church was consecrated in 1529, underwent a first restoration at the beginning of the 17th century, and another arbitrary intervention in 1926.
Alberti designed an austere and solemn building. The church has a Greek cross plan, with three identical short apses, under a central cross-vaulted space without any interior partitions.
The church is divided on two levels. The lower one is the crypt, which was intended to serve as a mausoleum for the Gonzaga family. The upper level is now accessed from two outer staircases added in the 20th century. Prior to 1925, there was only the lateral staircase on the left of the building.
The facade, which conceals a narthex that runs the full width of the structure, is precisely as wide as it is high, from the entrance level to the apex of the pediment.
The five openings of the portico on the facade are also the result of the restoration of 1926. The upper part of the facade is original and recalls a classical temple, with a broken architrave, tympanum and a Syriac arch, testifying to the extreme freedom in which the architect arranged the elements.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Church of San Sebastiano is located about 1 kilometer away from the Mantua railway station. The closest bus stop is San Sebastiano, on the bus Lines 8 and 11. To find the church on foot, use the map below.