According to tradition, Saints Fermus and Rusticus were martyred in Verona in 304 AD, and the locals built a church in their honor in the 5th or 6th century. However, the first traces of this church date back to the 8th century.
In 755, the bishop of Verona, Annone, who is now venerated as a saint, received the relics of Saints Fermus and Rusticus and placed them under the altar of the church dedicated to them.
Between 1065 and 1143, the Benedictines completely restructured the complex and built two churches in Romanesque style: the lower one to preserve the relics, and the upper one for the daily celebrations. They also started the construction of the bell tower, which was completed only in the 13th century.
In 1261, the Franciscans took the place of the Benedictines and rebuilt the upper church. The work was completed around 1350. In the following centuries, inside the church were added chapels, altars and funeral monuments.
In 1759, the relics were placed in the altar of the upper church, to protect them against the frequent flooding of the Adige river.
On August 30, 1807, the Franciscans were forced to leave the church, which became the property of the State and was entrusted to the secular clergy, becoming a diocesan parish.
Between 1905 and 1909, considerable restoration works were carried out. The apses were cleared of various structures built in the earlier centuries. Starting with Christmas 1946, the lower church was reopened for worship.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The facade of the church, completed around 1350, is a fusion of Romanesque and Gothic style. The facade presents two loggias and a four-light window in the middle, surmounted by a smaller one with three lights and two round ones on the sides, as well as an imposing portal, built in the 14th century, typical of Romanesque architecture.
The interior of the upper church has a single nave with five apses, where we can find a beautiful altarpiece by Giovanni Battista Belloti depicting Saint Francis. The presbytery also has an altar by the sculptor Antonio Schiavi, on which the relics of Saints Fermus and Rusticus are kept.
The lower church is accessed from the right transept of the upper church, through an ancient staircase. The lower church still preserves the original Romanesque structure, dating back to 1065.
The plan of the lower church is a Latin cross, divided into four naves by three rows of massive stone columns. In the presbytery, there is a wooden crucifix of the 14th century, while in the right transept is preserved the stone on which, according to tradition, Saints Fermus and Rusticus were beheaded.
The bell tower was built in terracotta and tufa between the 12th and 13th centuries, and the belfry presents round-arched trifore windows.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Church of San Fermo Maggiore is located about 2.1 kilometers from the Verona Porta Nuova railway station. The closest bus stop, Stazione San Fermo, is located near the church, on the bus Lines 11, 12, 13, 30, 51, 52, 70, 72, 73, 90, 92, 96, 97, 98, 103, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 115, 117, 119, 120, 121, 123, 130, 133 and 134.