Mantua Diocesan Museum is in Piazza Virgiliana, in the cloister of former Sant’Agnese monastery.
During XIV century, the followers of the Mantuan Blessed Giovanni Bono (1168-1249) founded in his town, just outside the civitas vetus, the grand Augustinian Sant’Agnese monastery, which was also rich of works of art.
The monastery became soon very prestigious and hosted Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1530 and in 1532; then, he invested the abbot and his successors as counts.
After the XVIII century suppressions of convents, Sant’Agnese monastery was deconsecrated and its church torn down. The Diocese ransomed it in mid XX century and made it a boarding school.
The present museum is on the first floor, while several Diocese organizations are on the ground floor.
Today the former monastery has a neoclassical façade by Paolo Pozzo (1795), and it is a few steps away from the Ducal Palace and the Cathedral.
The museum is dedicated to venerable Francesco Gonzaga, who was a bishop of Mantua from 1593 to 1620, and a great promoter of sacred art. It hosts lots of works of art of the last 20 centuries, such as sculptures, paintings, tapestries, sacred furniture and jewels from the Cathedral and Santa Barbara basilica, vitreous enamels, ceramics and so on; those objects come not only from diocesan parishes, but also from Byzantium, the Middle East, Vienna, Paris...
Here are some of its works of art:
- the famous illuminated Missal of Barbara of Brandenburg;
- the majority of remaining Italian XV and XVI century armours;
- works by Mantegna, Correggio, Cellini, Fetti, Borgani, Annigoni, Lanfranco, and the largest collection of Bazzani's paintings;
- a large collection of medieval and Renaissance ivories;
- the largest collection of Limoges vitreous enamels, aged from XII to XX century;
- the majority of remaining precious sacred furniture of Gonzaga family