The Convent of St Joseph and the Diocesan Museum
The Diocesan Museum of Brescia is a museum of the artistic heritage of the Diocese of Brescia, located in the great cloister of the Monastery of San Giuseppe.
In 1516, the Republic of Venice decided to fortify the walls of Brescia. Venice at that time wanted to redevelop the area occupied by mausoleums and houses of ill repute and planned to build beautiful buildings around the Town Hall Square. The construction of churches and convents near the area would contribute to the beautification of the environment, to the normalisation of social life and to the elimination of prostitution and illegal activities. in 1797, the government of the Republic of Cisalpina ordered the suppression of religious convents. the complex of San Giuseppe was at risk of closure, but it was able to continue to hold religious ceremonies as it was frequented by pilgrimages of believers. However, in 1810, the Order of the Little Brothers was abolished and the monastery was incorporated into state property, the church remaining open for worship. With the creation of the Kingdom of Italy, the San Giuseppe complex was included in the list of religious communities to be suppressed. A long judicial dispute began between the financial authorities of Brescia and the diocese, and in 1896 the church was reopened to the public. The complex remained state property and in 1973 the diocese purchased the third cloister and assigned it to the Diocesan Museum.
Founded in 1978 by Bishop Luigi Morstabilini, the museum houses a large collection of artefacts from all over the diocese, extending to the province of Brescia, including paintings, sculptures, goldsmiths’ objects and liturgical fabrics. The museum is also the regular venue for exhibitions of sacred art in Brescia.
The works are divided into four sections:
1. The Diocesan Gallery
The gallery houses one hundred works from the diocese, including Giovanni Battista Pittoni, Moretto, Romanino, Andrea Celesti, Giuseppe Tortelli, Pietro Avogadro, Francesco Savanni, Paolo Paintings by Veneziano and Giambattista Tiepolo.
2. Collection of pocket-size manuscripts
This section contains 22 manuscripts decorated with pocket paintings dating from the 12th to the 16th centuries, almost exclusively from the Brescia Clerical Library. The oldest codex was made for Jacopo de Atti, Bishop of Brescia (1335-1344), and contains a collection of pocket paintings from the French and Bolognese schools.
3. Gold and silver jewellery
The exhibition of goldsmiths’ objects shows a considerable amount of liturgical furniture in chronological and typological order, from the second half of the fifteenth century to the nineteenth century, by silversmiths and goldsmiths from Brescia, Veneto and Milan.
4. Liturgical fabrics
The Liturgical Fabrics section, opened in 1997, includes a collection of liturgical vestments (late 15th to early 19th century), mainly made in Venice and France, displayed in categories according to meaning, colour, symbol and style.