(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.

THAT MAGICAL CRYPT IN THE TUSCANY MEDIEVAL VILLAGE WHERE THE ITALIAN LANGUAGE WAS BORN

Abbadia San Salvatore, on Amiata Mount (Siena area, Tuscany, Italy) is a place rich of art and history… 

 

In Abbadia San Salvatore, on Amiata MountSiena area, Tuscany, Italy – there is a magical and capturing place. You find it on the ancient abbey church. It is a crypt, where you may breath the history and the beauty of one of the most fascinating Tuscany village.

According the documents, the crypt was built in VIII Century. It was restored in XX Century and now we may admire it in all its beauty. Everytime I have the way to visit it, I always feel astonished by its magic. It happened again a few days ago, when I was in Abbadia SS. for the XIII edition of “Penne and Video Sconosciuti”, the national festival for school journals and videos produced by italian schools.

The Longobard crypt shows 32 columns that form 13 small aisles. They are made in various shapes; some of them are round, with different sculpured ornaments. Also the beautiful capitals are sculptured in various shapes, as palm leaves, loto flowers or animal heads.

 

The abbey and all the Medieval centreare telling us how Abbadia San Salvatore was important in the past. All its area is rich in history and traditions, that to a great extent can be found in documents in the old archive belonging to the monastery dedicated to the Saviour at Amiata Mount. The archive contains many references to the importance and power of the abbey, but little or no reference is made to the early Medieval history of the surrounding land and area, or about the people who used to live there.

The castle of Abbadia is first mentioned in a document dating to 1203, which shows that the community was came under the aegis of a communal hierarchy headed by a Podestà, under the political control of Orvieto. A few years later, the strenght and power of this communal organization are described in the “bill of freedom” (“carta delle libertà”) granted in 1212 to communal chancellors by the Abbot of the San Salvatore monastery.

The pattern of settlements in the area of Abbadia was defined around the mid-XII Century, when under the pressure of external threats, the local population, up until then scattered over the surrounding countryside, came together within one large fortified settlement.

 

This Benedectine monastery was founded by Erfo, a Longobard nobleman, in the VIII Century, under King Astolfo, and it was dedicated to the Saviour, which was typical of that people and in the tradition of christian religion. It rose on the east side of Amiata Mount in order to reclaim the surrounding woods and forests. It also overlooked the Via Francigena, running through the Paglia Valley.

The imperial abbey greatly developed in the Carolingian period thanks to Charlemagne‘s and Ludovick‘s confirmation of its landed propertues and privileges, Around the year 1000, under Abbot Winizo, it increased its power by acquiring new territories. The church and the crypt were rebuilt in 1036. In 1228 the monastery passed to the Cistercians. It was suppressed by grand-duke Pietro Leopoldo in 1782 and re-opened later.

 

In the year 1087, a certain Miciarello and his wife Gualdrada made a donation in favour of the monastery of St Saviour. Below the donation document, the notary Ranieri signed three verses, commonly known as “Cartula Amiatina” (“The Amiata Footnote”). This extemporary poem represents to linguists the first voice of vernacular coming from Tuscany. That is, the first expressions recording the evolution of the Italian language.

But this is not the only important document about Amiata History. Till XIX Century, the monastery hosted the famous “Bibbia Amiatina”“The Amiata Bible” – which is considered the oldest latin version ever known. The Amiata Bible – a real art masterpiece, written by amanuensis monks – is now kept in Florence, but we may see a photo-reproduction in the Monastery Museum.

The historical centre is a well kept fortress-village, where you may walk through incredible narrow streets and squares, all built with the local grey stone. You may admire the Servadio Theatre (1873), a tiny but fascinating place. It was built thanks to the initiative of the Carli and Gragnoli families; it is dedicated to Giacomo Servadio (XIX Century) a Florentine member of Italian Parliament, banker, musician and theatre producer. Between the end of XIX Century and the beginning of the XX, the building was the seat of a friendly Society of the workers of Abbadia, where in XIX Century quicksilver mines began their activities, now closed and presented in a museum.

By ROBERTO ALBORGHETTI

“WHAT COLOR THE AIR IS…”

 

 “Tell me what color the air is…” (F. Dostoevskj)

LACER/ACTIONS ARTWORK by ROBERTO ALBORGHETTI

Lithograph, image size: 35×25; paper size: 70×50

A RARE MEDIEVAL MONUMENT ON THE LAKE COMO SHORES

I been in Gravedona, nice village on the Lake Como  (Italy). There, I had the way to continue my journey through Italian medieval monuments. An incredible sign of medieval times is found along the banks, a few meters from lake waters. It’s a rare church, Santa Maria del Tiglio, Saint Mary of the Lime-tree. In fact, behind the monument, close to the lake ‘s shore, you may see some of this beautiful trees.

Its architectural design was made by the famous “Maestri Comacini”. It is an example of the roman period around Como dated around the second half of XII century. It is built over a former baptistry (V century) dedicated to St. John the Baptist.

Unique in its kind, it was built with black and white stones on which raised symbols can be read. Pilasters, vaulted arches, arrow slits, embrasures, profiles and string courses on the windows, columns, arcades, apses and oculi express “Maestri Comacini” inspiration and creativity.

Inside the church – where you breath an enchanting  atmosfere – some of the grey stones bring frescos (made between XIV and XV century) as “St. John the Baptist”, “The Wise Men”, an “Holy Trinity”, “The Adoption of the Wise Men”, an episode of the “Life of St. Julian”. Also of great iconographic interest is the fresco of “The Day of Judgement”, with Giottesque traces to be seen.

Beside the church, you have to visit the beautiful crypt, with an extraordinary serie of columns, dated from XII century and built on a pre-existing Palaeo-Christian basilica.