Verona: why a crocodile hangs in a church.
In the district of San Michele Extra, once a fraction of Verona but currently incorporated in the inhabited center and became a real neighborhood, there are several religious buildings including the Church of Santa Maria della Pace.
There are several legends within the walls of the Church of Santa Maria della Pace, including that related to its origin.
It was 1517 when the Republic of Venice ordered that everything that all there was within a kilometer and a half of the city walls be demolished. Thus houses, palaces, churches and trees were razed to the ground. Only a small wall survived, on which a fresco depicting a Virgin and Child with Saints Bartholomew and Antonio Abate was placed. Just around the image developed a devotion so intense that the bishop commissioned to built a church to guard it.
Here, then, that the Church of Santa Maria della Pace was born, enlarged between 1931 and 1932 in its current forms, which see a central structure with a single octagonal hall and an external circular development that does not allow to present a main façade, but provided with a circular arcade below which three entrances open. In the apsidal space is the main altar which houses the ancient devotional fresco of the Madonna with Child, datable to the end of the fourteenth century.
To discover another peculiarity of uncertain origins, just go to the building adjacent to the church, where a mummified crocodile of 5 meters is kept hanging from the ceiling!
Among various hypotheses about its particular history it is said that it was a gift of the Marquise Bianca Bevilacqua Lazise, who had inherited it from an ancestor returned from the crusades, in 1608. It seems that the noble lady had vowed to the Madonna, to heal from an illness, to donate the rarest object he possessed: once she returned to health, has kept her promise.
According to another story, the crocodile was brought to San Michele by some members of a wealthy family and that, once grown, it was abandoned in the swampy countryside along the Adige river. Here he wandered undisturbed terrorizing the population and devouring flocks and children, without any hunter being able to catch him. Finally, a young girl, inspired by the Virgin Mary, advised to dig a well, cover it with shrubs and put pieces of meat on it as bait. The crocodile ended up in the trap, captured and killed, to be placed in the church like any relic, with the head turned to Verona and the tail towards the altar of the Madonna.