Chapel of St Sebastian or Zibramonti

The penultimate chapel on the left side of the sanctuary is the richly decorated chapel of San Sebastiano. Formerly belonging to the noble Zibramonti family, the space is interesting for several reasons.

The paintings on the walls and on the vault, hidden by a drapery until 1967, show a decoration of grotesques and quotations from Raphael made just a few years after the great Roman inventions. The wall paintings are most probably the work of two different hands who worked around 1525: this is evidenced by the date on the sepulchral monument of Francesco Carloni and his heirs, dated 7 December 1525 and created by the sculptor Bernardino Germani. The left wall shows a painted architecture that completes and extends the small sepulchral monument.

On the left, an interesting Saint Francis points to the tomb, while in the upper lunette, the Resurrection of Christ symbolically completes the iconography. On the opposite wall, on the other hand, there is a unique depiction showing, at the top, Saint Elisabeth of Hungary between angels. The nun holds up her habit with one hand, throwing down white and red roses, symbolising the miracles granted through divine intercession. At the bottom, some groups of figures are of great interest: they are, in fact, those who have asked for and are receiving graces.

The figures are taken directly from Raphael's Stanze Vaticane, and made a few years later, probably revealing themselves to be among the earliest uses of models taken from Sanzio. The presence of St. Elizabeth of Hungary has a clear significance, being the patroness of the Franciscan Third Order. These paintings are probably by Girolamo Botti and Alberto Cavalli.

The vaulting presents a triumph of elements taken from classical 'excavation' culture: grotesques and clypeus, which denote knowledge of Roman archaeological models and recall, in some ways, the Scalcheria (staircase) of Isabella d'Este's Appartamento Vedovile (widow's flat) in the Ducal Palace. In the centre, a quadrature shows God the Father; unfortunately the state of preservation does not enhance a quality that was perhaps already modest to begin with. In the panels surrounding it are four scenes from the passion of Saint Sebastian ('The torment of the arrows', 'Sebastian healed returns to the emperor', 'The dream of matron Lucina', 'The body of Sebastian recovered in the Cloaca Maxima').

Of particular importance is the altarpiece, depicting St Sebastian. A painting of great importance, also mentioned by Vasari in his Lives. The Saint appears in the centre, bound by the arms, and the target of the arrows of the first martyrdom; his eyes raised to the sky and, on the right, a view of an ancient building. This has been identified in the church of San Pietro in Valle, known as 'El Cesón', in the Veronese area but very close to the Mantuan border, a building of great antiquity and characterised by the reuse of Roman marble elements. Returning to the painting's protagonist, Vasari tells us that he is a young 'porter of fine character', who worked in one of Mantua's ports.

For further information click here: Sanctuary bibliography and insights

Santuario delle Grazie
Pick a flower for the Blessed Virgin Mary of Grace