San Zeno was the eighth bishop of Verona between 362 and 380 AD. He was born in Africa and was the first to establish the "Schola sacerdotum" by creating study centres, such as the Capitoline Library.
The basilica is located outside the walls, along the via Gallica, and was built on an ancient cemetery where the Saint was buried. According to legend, a miracle occurred when the Adige river flooded but its waters stopped in front of his gravestone.
While the Duomo was located in Roman Verona among noble, aristocratic and private circles, the Church of San Zeno was located in the periphery and represented the people and huge crowds.
This is the first masterpiece of the Veronese architecture and sculpture of the Middle Ages, made of alternating layers of white marble and red bricks. The first church was destroyed in the ninth century and then reconstructed by Pacifico, the Archbishop, and by King Pippin in the twelfth century.
The church is characterised by solemnity and discipline; wall frescoes are simple to communicate with the faithful, who were poor illiterate peasants. On the entrance portal, twenty-four tiles on each side of the door are the symbol of the wealth of moral values typical of that time. The sculptor is unknown, but his preparation, ingenuity and conscience make this a unique masterpiece. Along one of its three naves, we find the “Laughing San Zeno”, and the “Pala di San Zeno”, a masterpiece of Renaissance painting by Andrea Mantegna.