ART & GEOMETRY # 2 : ST. MARY OF THE FLOWER, THE IMPRESSIVE CATHEDRAL OF FLORENCE

 © Photos: ROBERTO ALBORGHETTI

 

Santa Maria del Fiore (also known simply as the Duomo) is the cathedral of Florence known for its distinctive Renaissance dome. Its name (“Saint Mary of the Flower“) refers to the lily, the symbol of Florence. The impressive Gothic cathedral complex includes the Duomo, the famous baptistery and a campanile. The cathedral was built on the site of the previous one, Santa Reparata, prompted by the magnificence of the new cathedrals in Pisa and Siena. It was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1294 to be the largest Roman Catholic church in the world (although the design was later reduced in size). After Arnolfo died in 1302, work on the cathedral slowed. In 1331, the Arte della Lana (Guild of Wool Merchants) took over responsibility for the construction of the cathedral and in 1334 they appointed Giotto as overseer for the work. His major accomplishment was the campanile.

It was not until 1355 that work resumed on the cathedral itself under a series of architects, including Francesco Talenti, Alberto Arnoldi, Giovanni d’Ambrogio, Giovanni di Lapo Ghini, Neri di Fioravante and Orcagna. The nave was finished by 1380, and by 1418 only the dome was uncompleted. In 1418 a competition was held to design a new dome for the cathedral. The two competitors were Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi, who won the competition with his distinctive octagonal design. Construction on the dome began in 1420 and was completed in 1436; the cathedral was consecrated by Pope Eugenius IV on March 25, 1436.

It was the first ‘octagonal’ dome in history to be built without a wooden supporting frame (the Pantheon, a circular dome, was built in 118-128 AD without support structures), and was the largest dome built at the time (it is still the largest masonry dome in the world). Brunelleschi’s ability to crown the dome with a lantern was questioned and he had to undergo another competition. The lantern was begun a few months before his death in 1446 and was completed by his friend Michelozzo.

The cathedral’s facade was demolished in 1587 and left bare until the 19th century. In 1864 a competition was held to design a new facade, won by Emilio De Fabris. Work was begun in 1876 and completed in 1887. The huge bronze doors date from 1899 to 1903.

 

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/florence-duomo

 

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THE REMARKABLE “HEMISPHERES” OF TERZA LOGGIA: HOW RENAISSANCE PAINTED THE MODERN WORLD / INSIDE THE VATICAN PALACES # 4

Terza Loggia (Third Loggia) is another stunning place in the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, Rome. On its walls we admire maps of the modern world painted between 1560 and 1585. They include the wonderful Emispheres, the frescoes designed by Ignazio Danti (1582 ca). I recently had the opportunity to visit Terza Loggia (I was in Rome to meet Pope Francis for the presentation of “Francis”, the illustrated and historical biography I wrote about him). I’m so glad to share some pics and news I found in a very interesting research by Francesca Fiorani (“Cycles of Painted Maps in the Renaissance”).

The first map cycles with maps of the modern world were painted for the papal residence at the Vatican between 1560 and 1585. Pope Pius IV commissioned the French cartographer Etienne Du Pérac to prepare the cartoons for thirteen modern maps of Europe, which were to be painted in the east wing of the Terza Loggia, the third story of the Renaissance addition to the papal residence Du Pérac arranged the maps according to the order of Ptolemy, but based their cartographic content on Gerardus Mercator’s map of Europe (1554) and additional modern maps.

On the wall above the maps are landscape views related to the mapped territories, while on the vaults of the loggia are inscriptions commemorating papal deeds, along with scenes painted by Lorenzo Sabatini illustrating examples of good and bad life. Unfinished at Pius IV’s death and untouched by his successor, Pius V, the Terza Loggia was completed around 1580, when Gregory XIII entrusted the Dominican polymath Ignazio Danti with the design of a world map divided into two hemispheres and ten maps of Africa, Asia, and America, which were painted by Giovanni Antonio Vanosino. Danti, who had served Gregory XIII in the Galleria delle Carte Geografiche, based the completion of the Terza Loggia on the similar map cycles in the Guardaroba Nuova in Florence that he had made for Cosimo I in the 1560s, a fact attested by comparing the Vatican maps with the earlier Florentine maps.

The maps of the world were complemented by city views that have not survived. Danti was also responsible for the connection between the maps and the other parts of the decoration. On the wall above the maps, a frieze painted by Antonio Tempesta and Mattheus Bril illustrates the procession staged in 1580 for the translation of Gregory of Nazianzus’s body to Saint Peter’s, celebrating Gregory XIII’s wish to reunify believers under the Greek and Roman rites. On the ceiling, scenes of paradise inspired by the breviary, the liturgical text Gregory XIII had reformed in the early 1580s, refer to the papal desire to unify the Catholic liturgy worldwide. The inscriptions commemorating important events of Gregory XIII’s pontificate, also on the ceiling, restate the centrality of Rome to Catholic spirituality.

As a whole, the Terza Loggia celebrates the wish of the post-Tridentine papacy to expand Catholicism universally by reconverting large parts of Europe to the Catholic faith, reaffirming the unity between those under the Greek and Roman rites, and converting the peoples of Africa, Asia, and America. The actions of the Roman pontiffs, recalled metonymically in the frieze of the Gregorian procession and in the inscriptions of papal deeds on the ceiling, took place in Rome, but their effect needed to spread to the world mapped on the walls below. That papal actions were meant to affect the world spiritually rather than politically is made manifest by the scenes from paradise, which crown both the scenes of papal deeds and the maps of the world below.

Following a firm medieval tradition, post-Tridentine popes adopted the language of Renaissance cartography as a vehicle of their ecumenical message. But, unlike their medieval predecessors, they had detailed maps with which to penetrate unknown lands and thus transform the medieval dream into a real program of propagating the faith. Indeed, the use of modern cartography for religious purposes became such a distinctive element of papal iconography that the Terza Loggia, even before its completion, served as a model for Cardinal Farnese’s Sala della Cosmografia discussed earlier. Francesca Fiorani, From “Cycles of Painted Maps in the Renaissance

(4 – To be continued)

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THE TRIUMPH OF RENAISSANCE: THE IMPRESSIVE REGAL ROOM AND DUCAL ROOM / INSIDE THE VATICAN PALACES #3

© Roberto Alborghetti - Sala Regia and Sala Ducale (12)

Sala Regia (Regal Room) and Sala Ducale (Ducal Room) are two beautiful rooms in the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. They aren’t generally open to visitors: they usually host consistories, conferences, papal hearings or special events. I recently had the opportunity to visit them (I was in Rome to meet Pope Francis for the presentation of “Francis”, the illustrated and historical biography I wrote about him). Here some news (from New Advent website) about Sala Regia and Sala Ducale. They well represent the triumph of Renaissance.  

The Sala Regia (Regal Room)

 Although not intended as such, this broad room is really an antechamber to the Sistine Chapel, reached by the Scala Regia (Royal Staircase). To the left of the entrance formerly stood the papal throne, which is now at the opposite side before the door leading to the Cappella Paolina. The hall was begun under Paul III by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and was completed in 1573. The elegant barrel-vault is provided with the highly graceful and very impressive plaster decorations of Pierin del Vaga. The stucco ornaments over the doors are by Daniele da Volterra. The longitudinal walls are broken on the one side by two, and on the other by three, large doors, between which Giorgio Vasari and Taddeo Zuccaro have introduced very powerful frescoes, whose effect is more than ornamental. They depict momentous turning-points in the life of the Church, among others the return of Gregory XI from Avignon to Rome, the battle of Lepanto, the raising of the ban from Henry IV, and the reconciliation of Alexander III with Frederick Barbarossa. This hall served originally for the reception of princes and royal ambassadors. Today the consistories are held in it, and an occasional musical recital in the presence of the Pope; during a conclave it is a favourite promenade for the cardinals.

The Sala Ducale (Ducal Room)

The Sala Ducale lies between the Sala Regia and the Loggia of Giovanni da Udine. Formerly there were here two separate halls, which were converted into one by Bernini by the removal of the separating wall (the position of which is still clearly perceptible). The decorative paintings, which are of a purely ornamental nature, are by Raffaellino da Reggio, Sabbatini, and Matthæus Brill. In this impressive hall were formerly held the public consistories for the reception of ruling princes. It now serves occasionally for the reception of pilgrims, the consecration of bishops, when (as rarely happens) this is undertaken by the Pope, or is used for the accommodation of specified divisions of the papal household, when the pope holds a consistory in the Sala Regia, proceeds to the Sistine Chapel, or sets out with great solemnity for St. Peter’s.

(3 – To be continued)

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INSIDE THE VATICAN PALACES #2 / EXCLUSIVE: THE FRESCOES BY MICHELANGELO IN CAPPELLA PAOLINA (LIMITED ACCESSIBILITY AREA)

I recently had the honour to meet Pope Francis for the presention of the biography I wrote about him. The private encounter took place in Casa Santa Marta, an unpretencious house where he usually lives. Before the encounter I had a very special gift: the possibility to visit some of the beautiful rooms in the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. I been also in the enchanting Cappella Paolina (the Pauline Chapel) to admire the incredible fresco paintings by the Italian Renaissance master Michelangelo Buonarroti : The Crucifixion of St. Peter (c. 1546–1550) and The Conversion of Saul (c. 1542–1545).

Being a sacred space, Pauline Chapel is a limited accessibility area. Despite the efforts of contemporary scholars to illustrate the genius behind these two works, they remain relatively obscure. This is due primarily to the fact that tourists are not permitted to enter the Pauline chapel because it’s a worship space. Most of those who do know of these works will never have the opportunity to see them in person. According to Williams no other work by Michelangelo has ever been so grossly misrepresented in reproductions. The only way to view these works as the artist intended them to be seen is to see them in situ.

The Crucifixion of St. Peter is the last fresco executed by Michelangelo. The artist portrayed St. Peter in the moment in which he was raised by the Roman soldiers to the cross. Michelangelo concentrated the attention on the depiction of pain and suffering. Pope Paul commissioned this fresco by Michelangelo in 1541 and unveiled it in his Cappella Paolina. Restoration of the fresco completed in 2009 revealed an image believed to be a self-portrait of Michelangelo himself. Vasari states about the fresco: “There are no landscapes to be seen in these scenes, nor any trees, buildings or other embellishments and variation”.

The positioning of St. Peter himself is often noted as the most interesting innovation Michelangelo implemented in this piece. He defied convention by positioning Peter’s upper body so that it cranes upward and twists his neck around so that his eyes make contact with the viewer.

The Conversion of St. Saul or St. Paul  is often discussed in conjunction with The Crucifixion of St. Peter. As its title suggests, the fresco represents the conversion of a lawyer from Tarsus named Saul (a man who prosecuted Christians) into a follower of Christ. In the book of Acts, Paul states that he saw an impossibly bright light and heard the voice of Christ himself. The blindingly bright light is the Apex of this story. The style is more mannerist than his earlier Sistine Chapel frescoes, and was not as well received by contemporaries.

Giuseppe Frangi (30 Giorni) writes: “On 25 January 1540, the Feastday of the Conversion of St Paul, until then celebrated in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, Pope Paul III Farnese consecrated to the saint whose name he had taken, the new parva (small) chapel, commissioned from Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and built in just three years in the heart of the Papal Palace. The chapel – parva as opposed to the chapel magna, the functions of which had been taken over by the Sistine – was the chapel intended for the conclave. And above all it was the place where the Blessed Sacrament was kept, for which purpose it had been fitted with both an altar and a tabernacle. When Paul III consecrated it, the chapel had no decorations, but it was clear who would climb the scaffolding: it was again up to Michelangelo, just down from the scaffolding of the Sistine Chapel, where he completed the great toil of the Last Judgment”.

 The reconstruction of the work – Frangi states – done day by day, made possible by modern restoration techniques, shows Michelangelo was capable of getting through a large amount of work in a day. Eventually there were 172 working days (85 for the Conversion of St Paul and 87 for the Crucifixion of St Peter), spread over seven years, with the break in 1544, when he was halted by health problems. These frescoes were largely ignored for centuries and incurred a great deal of damage due to neglect. In the early twentieth century there were some scholars who came to reconsider the frescoes under the new light of expressionism and abstraction.

William Wallace proposed an entirely new perspective on the subject claiming that the disproportionate quality of the figures is not a failing on the part of Michelangelo, but rather another instance of his genius. According to Wallace, the real innovation in this piece comes from the incorporation of time and space in the overall composition of the frescos. In addition to conceiving of these frescoes in terms of perspective, Michelangelo also took into consideration the architectural and environmental context they were to be set in.

After the last restoration Pope Benedict XVI said: “The two faces are opposite each other. One might therefore imagine that Peter’s face is actually turned towards the face of Paul, who, in turn, does not see, but bears within him the light of the Risen Christ. It is as though Peter, in the hour of supreme trial, were seeking that light which gave true faith to Paul”.

(2 – To be continued)

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(HE)ART PLACES / FROM MALATESTA TEMPLE TO AUGUSTUS BRIDGE AND ARCH: GREAT MONUMENTS IN RIMINI (ITALY)

 © Photos: ROBERTO ALBORGHETTI ; Tiberius (or Augustus) Bridge photo is from Wikipedia (free use).

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Rimini is the capital city of Italian vacations. It is located on the Northern coast on the Adriatic Sea. It is approximately 110kms southeast of Bologna, about three hours South of Venice and also three hours North of Rome. It is mostly a place where Italians go on vacation but also British, German, French and Russian tourists love to go there. But in Rimini – the city of the great Fellini! – visitors find some spectacular monuments: the Malatesta Temple (Tempio Malatestiano), the Arch of Augustus and the Bridge of Tiberius or Augustus.  

The Malatesta Temple – as Luigi Orsini writes in his book “The Malatesta Temple” (Bonomi Editore, Milano) – is perhaps “the only monument in the world of which it can be said that it lifted an architect to the heights of glory, immortalized the power of a potentate, and made vivid through the ages a woman’s smile. That edifice which Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta entrusted to Alberti’s genius for the perpetual exaltation and honour of the divine Isotta degli Atti, his mistress and consort, comprises in itself, the sweetest harmonies of art and sentiment, exquisite line and colour, subtle forms of mysticism, passion’s potent spell, in a perpetual union of real and ideal, of energy and dream, of mind and matter”.

The Tempio Malatestiano is the cathedral church of Rimini. Officially named for St. Francis, it takes the popular name from Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, who commissioned its reconstruction by the famous Renaissance theorist and architect Leon Battista Alberti around 1450. St. Francis was originally a thirteenth-century Gothic church belonging to the Franciscans. The original church had a rectangular plan, without side chapels, with a single nave ending with three apses. The central one was probably frescoed by Giotto, to whom is also attributed the crucifix now housed in the second right chapel.

Malatesta called on Alberti to transform the building and make it into a kind of personal mausoleum for him and his lover and later his wife, Isotta degli Atti. The execution of the project was handed over to the Veronese Matteo di Andrea de’ Pasti, hired at the Estense court. Marble for the work was taken from the Roman ruins in Sant’Apollinare in Classe (near Ravenna) and in Fano. The Temple is immediately recognizable from its wide marble façade, decorated by sculptures probably made by Agostino di Duccio and Matteo de’ Pasti. Alberti aspired to renew the Roman structures of Antiquity, though here his inspiration was drawn from the triumphal arch, in which his main inspiration was the tripartite Arch of Constantine in Rome. The entrance portal has a triangular pediment over the door set within the center arch; geometrical decorations fill the tympanum. Due to the strong presence of elements referring to the Malatesta’s history, and to Sigismondo Pandolfo himself (in particular, his lover Isotta), the church was considered by some contemporaries to be an exaltation of Paganism.

Not so far from the Temple, located in the centre of the city, we admire the amazing Arch of Augustus (Arco d’Augusto), an Ancient Roman monument constructed in 27 BC for the Rome’s first emperor. Thought to have been the gateway to Ancient Rimini which would have formed part of the city walls, the Arch of Augustus is a fairly ornate structure depicting various deities such as Neptune, Apollo and Jupiter.

Outside the city centre, looking towards Bologna, on the old Consular road, the Via Emilia, we find the Bridge of Tiberius or Augustus, so-called through being constructed on the decree of Augustus, although afterwards finished by Tiberius (from 14 to ai A. D.). It is of white travertine, of the Doric order, and is composed of five great arches, of which the central one measures 10.50 metres in diameter and the others, 8.75 metres. The piles are laid obliquely in order to second the current without interfering with the Via Emilia, which passes above. The last arch, towards the town, was broken by the Goths in 552 to prevent the crossing of Narsete. It was restored in 1680 on the order of Innocent XI by Agostino Martinelli of Ferrara.

(HE)ART PLACES / THE WONDERFUL BYZANTINE BASILICA OF SANT’APOLLINARE IN RAVENNA (ITALY) SHOWING MOSAIC DECORATIONS DATED TO THE 6th CENTURY

© Photos: ROBERTO ALBORGHETTI

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Some weeks ago I had the pleasure to visit again the enchanting Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe a few kilometers from the beautiful Ravenna. Sant’Apollinare is one of the most important monuments of Byzantine art.  When the UNESCO inscribed eight Ravenna sites on the World Heritage List, it cited this basilica as “an outstanding example of the early Christian basilica in its purity and simplicity of its design and use of space and in the sumptuous nature of its decoration”.

It was erected at the beginning of 6th century by order of Bishop Ursicinus. It was certainly located next to a Christian cemetery, and quite possibly on top of a pre-existing pagan one. The Basilica was consecrated on May 9, 549 by Bishop Maximian and dedicated to Saint Apollinaris, first bishop of Ravenna and Classe. The exterior has a large façade with two simple uprights and one mullioned window with three openings. The narthex and building to the right of the entry are later additions. The  round bell tower with mullioned windows was built in the IX Century.

The church has a nave and two aisles. An ancient altar in the mid of the nave covers the place of the saint’s martyrdom. The church ends with a polygonal apse, sided by two chapels with apses. In the naive we admire  24 columns of Greek marble with carved capitals. The faded frescos portraits some of the archbishops of Ravenna.

The mosaic decorations in the apse and on the triumphal arch are the most striking features of Sant’Apollinare in Classe. Inside a medallion, in the  upper section of the triumphal arch, we see Christ. At the sides, the winged symbols of the four Evangelists: the Eagle (John), the Winged Man (Matthew), the Lion (Mark), the Calf (Luke). The lower section shows precious gems from which twelve lambs (symbols of the Twelve Apostles) exit. The sides of the arch show two palms (they represent justice), the archangels Michael and Gabriel, the bust of St. Matthew and another unidentified saint. The decoration of the apse date to the 6th century. The Basilica’s walls are lined by numerous sarcophagi from different centuries.

THE GENIUS OF LEONARDO DA VINCI DESIGNED IN 1502 THE STUNNING HARBOUR (PORTO CANALE) IN CESENATICO (ITALY)

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© Photos: ROBERTO ALBORGHETTI / TOURISM OFFICE, CESENATICO

 

Cesenatico is an historical resort city on the Riviera Adriatica (Forlì-Cesena Country, Italy). For its relaxing and elegant atmosphere it is called the “living room of Adriatic Sea”.  Here, the old fish market, still active, is within walking distance from the modern wholesale market. And the old sailing ships stand side by side with modern fishing boats. You may find them on the beautiful and ancient harbour designed by the genius of the great Leonardo Da Vinci.

The so called Porto Canale ( Port Channel) is the main axis of the old town. On the docks still takes place social life and it’s one of the visitors favorite sites. The Port, however, is also the main historical monument of the city, which follows the lines drawn by Leonardo da Vinci in 1502 when working for Cesare Borgia, one of the sons of Pope Alexander VI. Along the harbor, you may visit the beautiful Maritime Museum and the house belonged to Marino Moretti (one of the greatest Italian poets).

Along the Channel, there is a floating section of the Museum. Here incredible under sails old boats are on permanent show. Every boat exhibits different designs. It’s a spectacular scenary, to be seen also during the night time. In Piazza Pisacane you admire the monument dedicated to Giuseppe Garibaldi (who stayed in Cesenatico, with his wife Anita). In the large square Ciceruacchio there ‘re still on the ground the traces of an ancient tower that once guarded the port from the pirates attacks. Nearer the sea, close to the lighthouse, the massive doors now are defending the town from seastorms: it’s a modern technology project reproduced on the example of Leonardo ‘s intuitions.

The picturesque Piazzetta delle Conserve, located in the heart of the city, owes its name to the buildings excavated in the ground where was placed the fish mashed up with snow and ice. That it was an intelligent solution to preserve fish for a long time, before the invention of refrigerators.

 

www.cesenaticoturismo.com

info@cesenaticoturismo.com

Tel. 039 (0)547 673287 (Tourism Office)