The Ivrea-Verbano Zone in the western Italian Alps contains one of the world's classic examples of ponding of mantle-derived, mafic magma in the deep crust. Within it, a voluminous, composite mafic pluton, the Mafic Complex, intruded lower-crustal, high-grade paragneiss of the Kinzigite Formation during Permian-Carboniferous time, and is now exposed in cross-section as a result of Alpine uplift. The age of the intrusion is still debated because the results of geochronological studies in the last three decades on different rock types and with various dating techniques range from 250 to about 300 Ma. Sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe (SHRIMP) U-Pb zircon age determinations on 12 samples from several locations within the Mafic Complex were performed to better constrain the age of the igneous event. The results indicate a long history of magma emplacement and cooling, which reconciles the spread in previously published ages. The main intrusive phase took place at 288 ?? 4 Ma, causing a perturbation of the deep-crustal geotherm, which relaxed to the Sm-Nd closure temperature in garnet-free mafic rocks after about 15-20 Myr of sub-solidus cooling at c. 270 Ma. These results suggest that large, deep crustal plutons, such as those identified geophysically at depths of 10-20 km within extended continental crust (e.g. Yellowstone, Rio Grande Rift, Basin and Range) may have formed rapidly but induced a prolonged thermal perturbation. In addition, the data indicate that a significant thermal event affected the country rock of the Mafic Complex at about 310 Ma. The occurrence of an upper amphibolite- to granulite-facies thermal event in the Kinzigite Formation prior to the main intrusive phase of the Mafic Complex has been postulated by several workers, and is corroborated by other geochronological investigations. However, it remains uncertain whether this event (1) was part of a prolonged perturbation of the deep-crustal geotherm, which started long before the onset of intrusion of the Mafic Complex, or (2) corresponded to the intrusion of the first sills of the Mafic Complex, or (3) was related to an earlier, independent thermal pulse. ?? The Author 2007. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.