Work on the church (now deconsacrated) was begun in 1494, and took masters from Como about 10 years to complete. The beautiful bas-relief doorway by Bernardino di Pietro da Carona is slightly later (1511-12).
The two medallions on the extrados are of Maximilian I of Habsburg and Pope Julius II representing the temporal and spiritual powers united beneath the scales of Divine Justice, protected by the sword of the Archangel Michael and blessed by the right hand of God the Father between the Virgin Mary in devotion and the Archangel Gabriel of the Annunciation.
The stone block from which Saint Michael is carved has an invisible Roman inscription on its left side dedicated to the administrator Sextus Truttedius Clemens. This indicates that it came from an ancient Roman monument, as did the legend AVGVSTO on the right of the entrance.
On the other side is the copy carved in relief of the Augustan Arch, indicating just how great the humanistic cult of ancient Rome was among the Congregation of St Michael.
The façade of the church as it is now was restored to its present state in 1936-7. Before that date it partly hid the small right hand archway of the Augustan Arch. The Schola or Congregazione di San Michele was built about twenty years earlier (1469-1490 ca.) to house the foundling hospital.
There are documents testifying that authorization was sought and granted for the use of the stones from the topmost section of the Roman arch, destroyed during the 1463 siege, to build the attractive Renaissance Loggia flanking the inner side of the arch. The present stone columns supporting the lower arches seem however to be the result of later work by Giovanni Basso, the stonemason who in 1543 also supplied the eight ionic columns for the small inner cloister.
The small polygonal columns of the upper loggia supporting the typically Tuscan or Venetian style roof with wooden architraves were probably part of the original structure.
The corresponding columns of the small internal cloister are modern imitations by Alberto Calza Bini, who was commissioned to restore the old building (1925-26). His restoration was sensitively done, though with considerable freedom, since he had to adapt the building to the needs of the then resident Congregazione di Carità (Congregation of Charity).
This was built by the nobleman Francesco Martinozzi when he was authorized to demolish the old church of San Maurizio to use the area in 1564.
Along the northern side of the building in via Arco d'Augusto there are still evident traces of the demolished church. At this point the building seems to have included some of the existing walls, doors and windows which were bricked in (among them a single trefoil light and narrow aperture with pointed arch similar to a so-called "door of the dead") and an interesting Romanesque stone cross.
Further along on the back north-eastern corner is the lower part of a Medieval tower-house (the upper part is a modern reconstruction). The façade is attributed to Jacopo Sansovino, but this is pure conjecture as there are no documents to prove the hypothesis. The austere beauty of this façade only came into its own in 1937 when the Piazzale degli Avveduti was opened up.
On each corner stand fine rusticated vertical strips, connected half way up by the horizontal band between the storeys dividing the lower from the upper floor which is surmounted by an elegant double ledged cornice.
The lower part of the façade is dominated by the central doorway with Renaissance diamond pointed surround and narrow fluted pilasters. It is sandstone like the other ornamental elements and arranged in symmetry, from the cornices of the nine great windows with triangular arched tympana to the five characteristic small octagonal attic windows.
An unadorned barrel-vaulted entrance leads to the portico along the entrance side of the simple courtyard with two cruciform pilasters supporting the arches of the three cross-spans. All the rest is unfortunately the result of rebuilding after the 1944 air raids.
Only the front part of the interior still has the original cross- and cloister-vaults and fine stone door surrounds. The cellar area with solid brick vaults is well preserved and has a separate entrance in via Arco d'Augusto.
The inscription on the façade recalls that Laura (the daughter of Count Girolamo and Margherita Mazzarino, sister of the famous Cardinal Mazzarino) was a member of the noble Martinozzi family, and that as the wife of the Duke Alfonso d'Este, whom she married in 1655, she had a daughter, Beatrice, who married James II of England.
From the street which follows the old communication trench of the ancient Malatesta Walls, turning to the right a little further down, is the space where the Porta Marina (Sea Gate) once stood.
Slightly further on begins the escarped stretch of the papal walls running along the downward slope of via Cavallotti to meet the mighty Bastione Sangallo, the great corner rampart which bears the name of Antonio da Sangallo who designed it in 1532 to protect the coast and city from feared Saracen pirate landings, and was completed by Luca da Sangallo in 1552.
The great papal coat of arms at the point of the glacis, or sloping defensive wall, bears the crest of Pope Julius III, and the inscription recalls the Jubilee Year of 1550.
The monastery building, attributed to Jacopo Sansovino (though with little evidence to support this), was built in the mid-16th century.
Dedicated to the Patron Saint of the city, the Church was consecrated in 1558. The façade, which was never completed, is decorated with a doorway influenced by the work of Michelangelo and constructed by the Venetian stonemason Jacopo Bambagiani.
In the triple nave interior, you can admire paintings by Alessandro Tiarini, Carlo Bonone, Giambattista Ragazzini, Claudio Ridolfi, il Cavaliere d'Arpino, Gian Giacomo Pandolfi and Bartolomeo Giangolini. The Chapel to the right of the Presbytery holds the Saint's remains inside an ancient late Roman sarcophagus, where they have lain for centuries. The chapel is frescoed by Antonio Viviani and the small dome of the ante-chapel contains another fresco by Sebastiano Ceccarini.
Giovanni Battista Ragazzini frescoed the dome and the apse in 1556.
The Observant Order of Minor Friars acquired this church in 1519 where they moved from the monastery of San Lazzaro, outside the city. Originally called the Church of San Salvatore (Holy Saviour), it was re-consecrated in 1557 with the name Santa Maria Nuova.
The columned entrance portal, which came from the old church, is the work of Bernardino di Pietro da Corona. The triple-spanned portico was probably built by the stonemason Giovanni Bosso.
The interior, with a single late baroque nave, preserves fine paintings of the Visitation by Giovanni Santi (Raphael's father) and the Annunciation and Madonna enthroned with Child and Saints by Pietro Perugino. The predella with the Life of the Virgin of this last altar-piece has been attributed by some scholars to the young Raphael.
Admire also the fine carved inlaid choir made towards the end of the 15th century.