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San Teodoro


The church of San Teodoro is placed on the south-western part of the city, on a natural terracing slopping down to the Ticino river. The building rises on the area called Porta Calcinara, formerly inhabited by fishermen, boatmen and dealers working along the river. The guilds (corporative associations dedicated to these jobs) have probably taken an active part in the construction of the church, named after their patron Saint. During the centuries, this location in a working-class district, in addition to the late appreciation of the Medieval architecture, has very damaged the church of San Teodoro, for a long time left out of the artistic routes of the city. The church was built in the second half of the twelfth century on the previous Early-Medieval church of Sant’Agnese. The reconstruction in Romanic style was probably due to the need of receiving inside the church the remains of St Theodore, bishop of Pavia at the half of the eighth century, during the change from the Longobard to the Carolingian kingdom.


The church has a basilican plant with three apses and three naves with three spans each, covered by cross vaults supported by cross-shaped pillars in Romanic type, not perfectly aligned. The contracted transept has barrel vaults on the arms and, on the cross, a dome with octagonal lantern, surrounded by a gallery of blind small arches outside and decorated by precious polychrome bowls, among which some of Islamic manufacture. The superimposed little dome is lightened by windows with two lights, reminded by the openings of the sixteenth-century small lantern. The presbyteral area is raised: under, along all the width of the naves, there is the crypt, with windows with one light opened on each apse.

The façade

The façade, divided by four pilasters, have had a salient shape in the nineteenth century and it was after transformed in a gabled shape by the twentieth-century restoration works. Now, over the portal, very simple and surrounded by a lunette, there are a central window with three lights and two side windows with two lights. Upper, other three openings: one central Greek-cross shaped window and two side oculus. On the upper part, under a frame with dentils and dice, there is a blind loggia decorated with ceramic bowls.

The interior

The interior is divided in three naves, with polystyle pillars with simple cubic capitals. The presbytery is raised on the crypt dating back to the thirteenth century. The width of the naves and the height of the vaults lend the interior a big spatiality.

The floor mosaics

On the first span of the right aisle, there are tracks of a mosaic, made by stone tesseras with four colours, probably datable at the half of the twelfth century. The external zigzag frieze is alternating with squares with animals and monsters. The interior frieze is characterized by a weaving motif. On the squares, you can see: the lower part of a harnessed horse and a knight with the inscription [ANSELMUS], or rather a satyr with helmet and shield engaging a quadruped of which there are only the forelegs; a peacock with a shoot on the beak and a figure of a man with a harpoon on his hands, next to a deer.

The views of Pavia

On the first span on the left, two views of Pavia remember the defence of the city by Federico Gonzaga during the French siege in 1522. Up on the clouds, in the presence of God the Father, next to the patron Siro (in the centre) and the protector Augustine (on the right), St Theodore is identified as liberator of the city, in connection with his role during the siege of French army under Carlo Magno. Down, there is a wide land with the city in the foreground, the Visconti park behind the castle and, on the background, the Alpine chain. The fresco was interrupted and all covered by a new layer of plaster, over which a new closer view of the city was depicted. The definitive version, detached from the wall in 1956, is now placed on the counter-façade. It’s an extraordinary representation of the city of Pavia at the beginning of the sixteenth century: the bird’s-eye view describes the towers, the civil and religious buildings, squares, streets and the covered bridge, the boats and the washerwomen on the river. In the foreground, there is the imposing figure of St Antony abbot. The traditional attribution to Bernardino Lanzani is brought forward by a different attributive hypothesis, that refers the paintings to the circle of the Master of St Agnes’s Stories, an artist active on the same church.

St Theodore’s Stories

On the northern wall of the transept there is depicted the history of the bishop Theodore, painted in 1514, during the renewing of the decoration of the church wanted by Luchino Visconti, as showed by the inscription on the upper frame. The scenes run on the wall on twelve squares, divided in three bands, and they end with other four episodes painted over the side arches. The painter seems to be close to the figurative culture of Bernardino Lanzani, while the side scenes are attributed to the Master of St Agnes’s Stories. Each scene is followed by the related caption in the vulgar tongue. From the upper left corner: 1) The angel appears to king Desiderio to suggest him the election of Theodore as bishop of Pavia; 2) Desiderio convenes the clergy and the people and Theodore is elected bishop; 3) Going to Rome to be confirmed bishop, Theodore recovers crippled and sick people; 4) He’s confirmed bishop by pope Leone IV; 5) Come back from Rome, he’s welcomed by the clergy of Pavia; 6) Theodore lets pass a widow on the Ticino river and recovers her paralytic son; 7) Theodore reattaches the hand of a Jew and baptizes him; 8) The French army, entered in Pavia with the complicity of the king’s daughter, is repelled by Theodore; 9) During the French siege, Theodore defends the city; 10) The king Carlo’s nephew, trying to hit Theodore, is killed by his same arrow; 11) After the prayer of king Carlo, Theodore raises his nephew from the dead; 12) Theodore raises the water of Ticino and the French troops have to stop the siege. Over the side arches there are also four moments of the last period of St Theodore’s life. On the left: 13) The angel announces to pope Leone the imminent Theodore’s death; 14) Leone arrives in Pavia to celebrate the burial. On the right: 15) The pope gives dying Theodore the Communion; 16) The pope participates to the Theodore’s funeral.

St Agnes’s Stories

The cycle is believed to have been painted about 1514 by a skilful artist, identified as the Master of St Agnes’s Stories. The Agnes’s life, martyr in Rome about the half of the third century, is depicted on the southern transept. Starting from the two episodes painted over the apse, it goes on, on the same level, on the upper band of the wall, divided in three scenes through pilasters with fine candelabras painted on a yellow ground. Then, it turns over the access to the presbytery, to end finally with the scenes of the lower band of the wall. 1) The prefect’s son falls in love with Agnes and he gives her gifts; 2) The prefect wants his son to marry Agnes; 3) Agnes refuses to sacrifice to the idols; 4) She is taken to a public place to be lynched; 5) She’s stripped but an angel dresses her again by a miracle; 6) The prefect’s son is strangled by the devil; 7) He lies dead; 8) He is raised from the dead by Agnes; 9) Agnes is leaded to the death; 10) She exits unhurt from the stake and she’s finally stabbed in the neck.

The presbytery

The presbytery is raised, its actual arrangement is due to the restoration works beginning from 1903. The masonry balustrade is marked by blind coupled small arches on frescoed ground. In correspondence to the right pillar, it spreads to define the ambo, supported by thin columns and divided into five frescoed sides with different symbols, for example the Evangelists’ creeds. The Neoclassic main altar, made in the first thirty years of the nineteenth century, shows two side medals representing the saint bishops Siro and Epifanio. On the sides of the table, two paintings made by oils on wood with scenes of St Theodore’s life are attributed to the Master of St Agnes’s Stories. On the apsidal basin, painted by Antonio Villa of Pavia in 1924, there is depicted the Trinity surrounded by bishops and saints, in particular St Theodore offering the model of the church.

The sculpture of St Theodore

The remarkable stone statue dates back the fourteenth century and preserves the polychromy and the ancient gildings. The saint bishop Theodore is represented with the Episcopal vestments and he carries the model of the city.

The crypt

The crypt is divided into seven little naves, with columns and capitals carved with geometrical engraving or vegetable, animals and monsters, according to the traditional Romanic repertoire. Two Late-ancient capitals are reused as base for the columns. On the left wall, there is the memorial tablet, made in 1524 to remember Giovanni Luchino Corti and the restoration works promoted by him. Inside a sandstone shrine with fluted pilasters and trabeation with a shell-shaped cymatium, the epigraph is flanked by two funeral genies. On the vault of the first span of the central nave, on a blue ground, there is painted the Christ’s face, surrounded by four musician angels and cherubs. The work of art is attributed to the painter traditionally identified as the Master of St Agnes’s Stories.