A few steps away from the historic center of Pavia and the Visconti Castle, is the splendid Romanesque Early Christian Basilica of San Pietro in Ciel D’oro. Under the starry ceilings, lie the mortal remains of St. Augustine, a prominent theologian of Christian thought. This is a place where you can admire some of the most precious masterpieces of Lombard sculpture of the fourteenth century, including the Marble Ark of St. Augustine.
The Basilica, which is located a few steps from the Historic Center and the Majestic Visconti Castle, was built in the early Christian era at the behest of the Lombard king Liutprand. In 724 AD Liutprand carried out the transfer of the relics of St. Augustine from Sardinia to Pavia, reclaiming the weight in gold by the Saracens. These relics, discovered in the crypt, in 1695, currently lie in a silver urn at the foot of the Marble Ark in the center of the chancel.
In the 12th century the Basilica was rebuilt in Romanesque style and consecrated by Pope Innocent II in 1132 AD. The building, constructed of brick, consists of three naves: false transept, apse and the crypt. The name of the church, “Ciel d’oro” refers to the style of the wooden ceiling decorated with blue stars and a golden leaf.
The Marble Ark of St. Augustine, which is one of the masterpieces of Lombard sculpture of the fourteenth century, is found at the center of the chancel, raised above a crypt. It is decorated with 95 statues and 50 bas- reliefs, a small encyclopedic illustration of faith, the theological, cardinal andmonastic virtues. Among these are some episodes from the life of St. Augustine- one of the greatest theologians of the Church: His conversion, his baptism, his miracles after death and the translation of his relics to Pavia made him a very important figure in the history of Christianity.
At the end of the last century The Crypt, which is supported by 24 columns, was rebuilt on existing tracks. Here, in an elegant Byzantine style rests the body of Boethius, a great console, senator and philosopher. In 525 AD Boethius was a victim of the cruelty of King Theodoric, and mentioned by Dante in the 10th canto of the Paradiso. The existence of a well in the crypt aroused curiosity, and the mysterious ancient origins that drank it, considered it a blessed source; these were laymen, emperors and kings.
The crypt is also known for the holding of King Liutprand’s tomb, particularly to the right of the crypt, in the pedestal holding of the large pillar. Many believe King Liutprand was the founder of the church, as a tribute to the magnificence, enabling the transfer of the relics of St. Augustine into Pavia.
Today, the Augustinian monks who have returned to occupy the former convent manage the Basilica.
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