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The severe Romanesque exterior lines contrast with the Baroque explosion you’ll discover upon entering. Majestic and imposing, it is the most beautiful and beloved church of the people of Bergamo.
There is a deep and ancient bond between the city and the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, which probably derives from the unique conditions of its construction.
The Basilica is particular because it is characterized by the lack of a central entrance and of the façade, which was a single wall with the adjacent building.
The four entrances to the church in fact are all lateral. At the base of the small columns of the fourteenth-century protiri by Giovanni da Campione, four red and white marble lions impassively and majestically guard the northern and southern entrances.
On the northern side the door called “dei Leoni rossi” (red lions) opens onto Piazza Duomo; the southern side faces Piazza Rosate with the door called “dei Leoni bianchi” (white lions). The different coloring is given by the type of marble used: Verona marble for the reds and Candoglia marble (in the Piedmontese Val d’Ossola) for the whites.
Even the place chosen is not accidental: it has always been considered sacred, already in Roman times it housed a pagan temple then destroyed dedicated to the goddess Clemenza and in the eighth century there was built another church dedicated to the Virgin.