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

 

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)

*

RELATED ARTICLES:

https://robertoalborghetti.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/the-triumph-of-renaissance-the-impressive-regal-room-and-ducal-room-inside-the-vatican-palaces-3/

*

https://robertoalborghetti.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/inside-the-vatican-palaces-2-exclusive-the-frescoes-by-michelangelo-in-cappella-paolina-limited-accessibility-area/

*

https://robertoalborghetti.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/i-lead-you-inside-the-vatican-palaces-1-the-beautiful-berninis-royal-staircase/

*

https://robertoalborghetti.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/extraordinary-day-i-met-pope-francis-for-the-presentation-of-the-historical-biography-i-wrote-about-him-images-talk-better-than-words/

*

https://robertoalborghetti.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/pope-francis-person-of-the-year-my-new-book-tells-his-extraordinary-life-2-volumes-unpublished-stories-340-photos/

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)

*

RELATED ARTICLES:

https://robertoalborghetti.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/inside-the-vatican-palaces-2-exclusive-the-frescoes-by-michelangelo-in-cappella-paolina-limited-accessibility-area/

*

https://robertoalborghetti.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/i-lead-you-inside-the-vatican-palaces-1-the-beautiful-berninis-royal-staircase/

*

https://robertoalborghetti.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/extraordinary-day-i-met-pope-francis-for-the-presentation-of-the-historical-biography-i-wrote-about-him-images-talk-better-than-words/

*

https://robertoalborghetti.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/pope-francis-person-of-the-year-my-new-book-tells-his-extraordinary-life-2-volumes-unpublished-stories-340-photos/

THAT SIGISMONDO MALATESTA HERALDIC SYMBOL (XV CENTURY) WHICH INCREDIBLY LOOKS LIKE A DOLLAR SIGN…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

© Photos: ROBERTO ALBORGHETTI

Following my post “From Malatesta Temple to Augustus arch and bridge: great monuments in Rimini, Italy”, Doralynn Pines (from USA) sent me an interesting comment at my LinkedIn account – (“Medieval and Renaissance Art, Antiques, Architecture, Archaeology, History and Music” group).

Doralynn Pines – as Associate Director at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York she served as Administrator for all departments reporting to the Director –  commented: “Wonderful images.  I was always fascinated by the Malatesta heraldic symbol which looks like a dollar sign long before there was anything like a dollar sign.  I don’t know if anyone mentioned it, but I believe that Rimini was the site of Fellini’s wonderful movie, Amarcord.  And there are beautiful scenes of the town.”

Doralynn comment is really intriguing. So, let’s have a detailed view on Sigismondo Malatesta heraldic symbols we admire at Malatesta Temple in Rimini.    Yes, they incredibly look like dollar signs… The debate is open…

(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).

*

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

*

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.

BLACK AND WHITE STONE STRIPES ON A RARE MEDIEVAL MONUMENT ON LAKE COMO SHORES (GRAVEDONA, ITALY)

 

© Photos: ROBERTO ALBORGHETTI

*

Gravedona is a nice town on Lake Como (Italy). A really stunning medieval monument rises 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 shore, you may see some of these beautiful trees).

Its architectural design was created by the famous “Maestri Comacini” (Comacini Masters). It is an example of the romanesque period in 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 atmosphere – some of the grey stones bring frescos (made between XIV and XV Century) as “St. John the Baptist”, “The Wise Men”, “The Holy Trinity”, “The Adoption of the Wise Men”, and an episode from the “Life of St. Julian”. Also of great iconographic interest is the fresco “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.