The richness of Brescia’s religious heritage is exemplified in the superb monastic complex of San Salvatore, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. It was founded as a female monastery in 753 by Desiderius and his wife Ansa, the future monarchs of the Lombard kingdom. They were defeated by Charlemagne, who then married their daughter, Desiderata, a union that brought both wealth and influence to the foundation. Alfred the Great visited the monastery on his journey from England to Rome in the 850s. The monastery prospered throughout its existence until its suppression in 1798, successive generations adding to its buildings.
This resulted in what you see today, an astounding amalgam of architectural styles that includes examples of Roman remains, pre-Romanesque, Romanesque and Renaissance structures. The serenely beautiful 9th century Basilica of San Salvatore stands on the remains of much older buildings, cheek by jowl with its 14th-century bell tower, the 12th-century oratory of Santa Maria in Solario, and the 16th-century church of Santa Giulia,. The entire complex now houses Brescia’s museums.