Basilica di San Vittore
The Basilica di San Vittore has been at the center of Varese’s religious life for centuries. This16th-century church and its baroque bell tower rise above the piazza of the same name. Inside are many notable pieces of art.
The basilica is dedicated to the patron saint of Varese, Saint Victor, who was martyred in the fourth century. It was built on the ruins of a smaller church that may have been constructed in the fifth century.
Devote a few minutes to looking over the huge bell tower to the right of the main church building. The 246-feet (75-meter) tall structure is known as Bernascone’s Bell Tower after its architect and took more than 150 years to complete. You can see evidence of this construction delay with the lower level reflecting the late mannerism period, while the top is baroque.
Step inside the basilica where you will find three naves and beautifully-frescoed vaults. The striking white marble altar is one of the church’s more recent additions, created in 1991 by local sculptor Floriano Bodini.
Stand before the presbytery to admire the two elaborately carved wooden pulpits. Look up at the apse to study the three 17th-century frescos depicting the martyrdom of the basilica’s namesake, Saint Victor.
There are several chapels in the basilica that are worth exploring for their altars and paintings, but be sure to pay particular attention to the Chapel of the Rosary. Constructed in the 16th century, it is the church’s oldest chapel and features stunning frescos painted by Il Morazzone. There is also a wooden altar with a carving of the Battle of Lepanto, a 16th-century conflict between Catholic maritime states and the Ottoman Empire.
Go to the Chapel of St. Catherine of Alexandria for Ronchelli's painting of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. Inside the Chapel of St. Martha, find the urn that contains relics of St.Urbica.
The Basilica di San Vittore is located in Piazza San Vittore in the city center and is open daily.