The church of San Salvatore is an important example of Early Medieval religious architecture, located at the heart of the Santa Giulia monumental complex. King Desiderius founded the monastery in 753, dedicating it to San Salvatore and later depositing there relics of the martyred Santa Giulia; the church-mausoleum was intended as a symbol of the dynastic power of the Lombard monarchy and duchies.
Investigations inside the church have brought to light portions of the original walls, as well as remains of the Roman town-houses (1st – 4th centuries AD) that lie below, several structures dating to the early Lombard period (568-650) and the (partially visible) foundations of an earlier church.
The church contains a central nave separated from the side aisles by two lines of columns that come from earlier Roman buildings. The – also re-used – capitals are of particular note; two are Ravenna-type 6th century Byzantine models. The church was decorated with plentiful – and carefully integrated – stuccoes and frescoes.
After the arrival of St Julia’s relics in 761, the church was equipped with a crypt – that later underwent various modifications and was enlarged; the oldest part still contains arches decorated with stucco and patches of wall paintings.