Brixen (It: Bressanone ) is in the north-east of the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy, to the south-east of Vipiteno. The town is in a very attractive setting, in a broad valley beneath the mountains.
The highlight of a visit to the medieval quarter of Brixen is around Piazza del Duomo, particularly the cathedral (duomo) itself - and more specifically the parts of the cathedral that date from the 12th and 15th centuries, rather than the more recent 18th century reconstruction.
Explore Brixen / Bressanone
The heart of the Old Town is based around the Piazza Duomo, in which you can see an ancient marble pillar, erected to celebrate the first thousand years of the city. At the base of the column the Bishop Zacharias is shown, with the major events that affected the city's history.
The Cathedral of the Assumption in Brixen dates back to the 10th century, when it was dedicated to Mary Assumption into Heaven. The present building is of the Romanesque style.
Above the main entrance is the coat of arms of the reigning pope. The interior has a Latin cross layout with three naves, with frescoes by Paul Troger (1698 - 1732), one of the most important Austrian Baroque painters of the South Tyrol and the author of nine paintings of the main altar.
Next to the Cathedral you can see the Cloister, an ancient architectural structure with Romanesque and Gothic elements. Particularly noteworthy is the major vault, on the side walls of which are the sarcophagi of some illustrious people from antiquity.
The chapel, which is accessed through a door of the cloister, has some frescoes from the 14th-15th centuries.
Various painters worked in the Cathedral, among these, in the third arch of the building is a painting of the Crucifixion, perhaps dating from the middle of the 14th century. There are also works by Stefano di Giovanni, called Stefano da Verona (1379-1438 approx.) who enjoyed a certain fame in Venetian art.
There are also some paintings attributed to Hans von Bruneck (15th century). In the lunette arch there was originally an "Adoration of the Magi", now removed as a result of redevelopment. On the opposite side is painted a "St. George and the Dragon", a group of crusading knights and busts of saints. On the vault there are the busts the Prophets and symbols of the Evangelists.
The Bishop's Palace in Brixen is an example of different style loggias: two of the façades have Renaissance loggias decorated in purple, the other two are of Baroque style.
Inside, the palace is home to the Diocesan Museum which houses sacred relics of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque art. You can also see the cathedral treasury, the Bishop's apartment and the furnishings of the Imperial apartment, with some frescoes, and interesting examples of Venetian silk upholstery.
Medieval and Renaissance art is well represented in the Museum. Note particularly the Flemish "Lamentation over the Dead Christ," whose author was an apprentice of Hans Memling (1435-1494); another "Lamentation" by Willem Key (1515-1568), and a "Madonna" by Jan Gossaert, called Mabuse (1478-1532). The so-called " Christ ‘passo’" is a replica, unsigned, of an original painting by Lucas Cranach (1472-1553), executed by an his apprentice.
Among the most significant works of the Middle Ages are the many crucifixes, and a fragment of a crucifix from the mid-twelfth century.
Next to the Bishop's Palace is the Garden of the Lords, a flower garden with various vegetables and colourful flowers.
One interesting sidetrip in Brixen is to see the Pharmacy Museum - a chance to see the medicines and treatments that were applied in years gone by, through a series of period recreation rooms. Another museum, less for the squeamish, contains various instruments of medieval torture that the locals endured for three centuries until the end of the 18th century.
The Town Hall of Brixen is situated between the “Portici Maggiori” Street and Cathedral Square. The present building has a Renaissance façade and a late-Medieval crenellated roof.
Be sure to aake advantage of your visit to taste typical local dishes, mostly simple "peasant" dishes in harmony with the rural roots of the area. Particularly to be enjoyed are the "Knodel", "strudel", "Krapfen", prepared in different ways in the town and its surroundings.
Places to visit in and near Brixen
Bressanone is a city of great potential for tourism, in summer and winter, because the surroundings are suitable for hiking and biking.
It is also possible to visit the massive granite fortress located just below the reservoir, built between the 1833 and 1839 to defend against enemy invasion from the South. The entire building was called "Franzensfeste," which means "Fortress of Francis" in honour of Emperor Francis I of Austria (1830-1916).
The Neustift Abbey at Varna is also close by and one of the most extensive monastery complexes in Italy, including a substantial cathedral.
After your visit to Brixen travel a little way out of town to the north, to see the fine frescoed cloisters at the Novacella Monastery. Still need more frescoes? Head south to see the ornately decorated rooms at the Castello del Velturno!
See also history of Brixen
Map of Brixen and places to visit
Brixen places to visit
See more places nearby in the Trentino-Alto Adige guide