The historic city of Verona was founded in the 1st century B.C. It particularly flourished under the rule of the Scaliger family in the 13th and 14th centuries and as part of the Republic of Venice from the 15th to 18th centuries. Verona has preserved a remarkable number of monuments from antiquity, the medieval and Renaissance periods, and represents an outstanding example of a military stronghold.
© Luciano Marchesini
Justification for Inscription
Criterion ii In its urban structure and its architecture, Verona is an outstanding example of a town that has developed progressively and uninterruptedly over two thousand years, incorporating artistic elements of the highest quality from each succeeding period. Criterion iv Verona represents in an exceptional way the concept of the fortified town at several seminal stages of European history.
In its urban structure and its architecture, Verona is an outstanding example of a town that has developed progressively and uninterruptedly over 2,000 years, incorporating artistic elements of the highest quality from each succeeding period. It also represents in an exceptional way the concept of the fortified town at several seminal stages of European history.
The city is situated in northern Italy at the foot of Monte Lessini on the River Adige. It was founded by ancient tribes and became a Roman colony in the 1st century BC, rising rapidly in importance. It was occupied by the Ostrogoth Theodoric I (5th century), by the Lombards, and by Charlemagne (774). In the early 12th century, it became an independent commune, suffering during the wars of Guelphs and Ghibellines. It prospered under the rule of the Scaliger family and particularly under Cangrande I. It fell to Venice in 1405, was part of the Austrian Empire from 1797, and joined the Kingdom of Italy in 1866.
The core of the city consists of the Roman town in the loop of the river. The Scaligers rebuilt the walls, embracing a much larger territory in the west and another vast area on the east bank of the river. This remained the size of the city until the 20th century. The heart of Verona is the ensemble consisting of the Piazza delle Erbe (with its picturesque vegetable market) and the Piazza dei Signori, with their historic buildings, including the Palazzo del Comune, Palazzo del Governo, Loggia del Consiglio, Arche Scaligere and Domus Nova. The Piazza Bra has a number of classicist buildings.
In the north of Italy, Verona is one of the richest cities in Roman remains. These include the Porta Borsari, a city gate at the beginning of the decumanus maximus; the Porta Leoni, only half of which remains, attached to a later building; the Arco dei Gavi, dismantled in the Napoleonic period and rebuilt next to Castelvecchio in the 1930s; the Ponte Pietra; the Roman theatre, excavated in the mid-19th century and restored for use in spectacles; and the Amphitheatre Arena, the second-largest after the Colosseum in Rome (originally a wall of three orders surrounded it, but this collapsed in an earthquake in the 12th century).
In the Romanesque period (8th-12th centuries), the church of San Giovanni in Valle was built on the ruins of previous buildings. The interior has three aisles and there is pre-Romanesque crypt. The elevations of the church of San Lorenzo consist of a mixture of materials, tuff in the lower parts, and tuff and brick alternating in the upper part. The entrance has a Renaissance porch. The church of San Fermo was built from tuff and brick on the remains of an earlier basilica of the 8th century. The tombs are on the exterior; the church has small arches, tall windows, ample staircases, and a beautiful Romanesque porch. The cathedral (Duomo) was first built in the 6th century but rebuilt in the 12th century after an earthquake. The facade, completed in the 14th century, is in Verona marble and has bas-reliefs representing sacred and profane episodes of different types. There is a fine 12th-century cloister with arcades on double colonnades.
During the Scaliger period (13th-14th centuries), the church of Sant'Anastasia was built by the Dominicans; its facade remained incomplete. The Arche Scaligere is the cemetery of the Scaliger family, close to the Piazza dei Signori. Castelvecchio is the fortified residence of the Scaliger family, built at the time of Cangrande II over a previous fortification. The House of Juliet is a small genuine medieval palace; a balcony was added in the 1930s, inspired by Shakespeare's drama. The House of Romeo is a medieval complex, greatly transformed in later periods, and relatively little remains from the original building.
There are also numerous buildings that date from the Renaissance in the centre of Verona: the churches of Santi Nazaro e Celso, Santa Maria in Organo, San Giorgio, San Tomaso, San Bernardino, and Sant'Eufemia. There are the palaces of Canossa, Pompei and Bevilacqua, the gates of Porta Palio, Porta Nuova, Porta Vescovo and Porta San Zeno, as well as the Bishop's Palace and the Giusti Garden and Palace. From the Austrian period of the 19th century, notable buildings include the Castel San Pietro and the Caserma Santa Marta. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
The city of Verona, today the capital of the province of Verona, is situated in northern Italy at the foot of Monte Lessini on the River Adige. It was founded by ancient tribes and became a Roman colony in the 1st century BCE, rising rapidly in importance. It was occupied by the Ostrogoth Theodoric I (5th century), by the Lombards, and by Charlemagne (774). In the early 12th century, it became an independent commune, suffering during the wars of Guelphs and Ghibellines. It prospered under the rule of the Scaliger family (the period of Romeo and Juliet) and particularly under Cangrande I, who protected the exiled poet Dante. It fell to Venice in 1405, was part of the Austrian Empire from 1797, and joined the Kingdom of Italy in 1866.
In the early period, the hillsides of the region of Verona were inhabited in fortified villages (castellieri). The name of Verona has been related to the root wehr (a defensive wall); the name could have meant a fortified site on the river. Ancient roads of communication may have crossed here as early as the 6th or 5th century BCE. One road led to the Adriatic, with an important Etruscan settlement, another followed the river in the direction of the vineyards of Valpolicella and the lower Trentino, and a third connected with the flourishing Cisalpine territories of Garda and Brescia (Via Claudia Augusta). The construction of the Via Postumia around 148-147 BCE opened the way to Genoa and Lombardy (Pavia, Piacenza, Cremona) in the west and to Oderzo and Aquileia in the east.
The construction of the Roman settlement began in the later Republican era, the second half of the 1st century BCE. To this period has been dated the construction of the decumanus maximus, which followed the trace of the Via Postumia, and the cardo maximus, which entered the town from the east. The town was built on a grid plan and surrounded by defensive walls with two gates, Porta Leoni and Porta Iova (later Portone Borsari). Of the walls and gates there are only archaeological remains. The discovery of an inscription has confirmed the date of the foundation of Verona as 49 BCE. The city soon grew in importance and wealth and various public buildings were constructed, including the amphitheatre, the Roman theatre, and the Ponte Pietra. Recent excavations have revealed considerable further remains, including decorated marble paving and prestigious structures and objects. In 265 CE, with the intensification of conflicts with the barbarians in the north, the Emperor Gallienus decided to rebuild the Republican defence walls further out, including also the amphitheatre. The town resisted the various invasions, while other cities were destroyed.
At the end of the Roman period (476 CE), Verona became the second capital of the Italic Kingdom of the Ostrogoths; Theodoric I had Verona as his principal residence. During the following centuries (domination by the Goths until 567, the Lombards until 774, and the Holy Roman Empire until the end of the millennium), Verona continued to play an important role, resulting in the construction of prominent buildings. Amongst the authorities, Bishop Raterio (from Belgium) merits a special mention because he prepared an illustration of the city, the only document surviving from this period. In its urban layout, the city preserved its Roman grid plan.
In the following period of independent communes in northern Italy, the continuous wars and armed conflicts forced Verona to rebuild its fortifications. The arrival of the Signoria of the Scaligers (1259-1387) favoured the development of the town, which had already extended its possessions to a large part of the Venetian territories in the north-west. Cangrande I de la Scala (1311-29) decided to further extend the city ramparts, and to reorganize the defence of the city so as to resist even long sieges. The strength of the defences was such that Verona remained a stronghold in the subsequent Venetian and Austrian periods. This decision also had an impact on town planning and the city initiated an active period of construction, especially large basilicas and administrative ensembles. In 1387, Giangaleazzo Visconti of Milan conquered Verona for a short period, building new ramparts, as well as a citadel in the southern part of the city.
From 1405 until 1797 Verona was a wealthy and active part of the Venetian Republic. Apart from a conflict in the early 16th century, this was a period of peace. The Venetians commissioned the Veronese military architect Michele Sanmicheli (1484-1559) to reinforce the medieval fortifications. He designed the series of polygonal bastions placed at regular intervals, as well as building three new city gates (Porta Nuova, Porta Palio, Porta San Zeno) of great architectural significance. The position of these gates favoured the development of the city in the area comprised between the communal and the Scaligerian walls further south. The Venetians prohibited extending the city beyond this limit for military reasons and the ban remained in force during the Austrian Empire. This forced all development to remain inside the walled area, thus contributing to unity in the development. For the city, the Venetian period was characterized by considerable economic autonomy, reflected also in administration and in culture. A great number of prestigious palaces of wealthy families and numerous religious and public buildings marked the period.
With the Austrian domination (1814-66), Verona strengthened its military role. Marshal Radetzki and his general-architect Franz von Scholl repaired the damages caused by the Napoleonic wars, and large military complexes were built inside the city, including the impressive Arsenal, close to the medieval bridge of Castelvecchio. In 1866, when the Austrians handed the city over to the Kingdom of Italy, there were 65,000 inhabitants but practically no industry. The city thus entered a period of some difficulty, which was aggravated by the terrible flood of 1882. The river rose some 8m and numerous buildings, watermills, and sawmills were wiped out. While the two main bridges were destroyed, the old bridges resisted the force of the river.
From this time on, the city's development changed. Its military role having come to an end, development now expanded outside the walls and new districts were established. It was also the beginning of industrial development. By 1927 the population had grown to 150,000, and the first competitions for urban plans were organized in 1931-32. World War II was devastating to the city: 40% of the building stock was destroyed, including all the bridges. There followed a long period of intense reconstruction and restoration, with the active participation of the Superintending Architect of Verona, Piero Gazzola (1908- 79), founding President of ICOMOS and one of the initiators and principal authors of the Venice Charter. The reconstruction period also led to the approval of the first urban master plan of Verona in 1958, amended in 1975. Source: Advisory Body Evaluation