Art: A Pious, Puissant Queen

Some time in the 15th century, a family of painters named Zavattari began the most ambitious project of their lives in the Basilica of San Giovanni in the small northern Italian town of Monza. Just how long they worked or how many of them there were, no one knows for sure, but when they were done, the chapel walls sparkled like pages out of an illuminated manuscript (see color). There, in 40-odd glowing frescoes, was the life and legend of Queen Theodolinda, who had ruled over the Lombards some 900 years before and was still cherished in memory.

Time was not kind...

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