Sacred Sunday: 13th Century Italian Cathedral Architecture

Exterior view of the Cathedral 1270s (completed) Photo Duomo, Siena

Exterior view of the Cathedral
1270s (completed)
Photo
Duomo, Siena

The present cathedral replaced two earlier ones, one dating from the 9th or 10th century and a second that was consecrated in 1179. It was built during the first half of the 13th century and completed, with the exception of the façade, in the early 1270s in the early 1270s.

The cathedral is built with two colors of marble, white from Carrara and very dark green from Prato. The elaborate striping of much of the exterior and interior reveals the communal content of this monument in its reference to the black-and-white coat of arms of the Sienese commune.

The lower half of the façade was designed by Giovanni Pisano. The bell tower dates from before 1215 and is the only surviving part of the earlier Cathedral dedicated in 1179.

Interior view of the Cathedral 1270s (completed) Photo Duomo, Siena

Interior view of the Cathedral
1270s (completed)
Photo
Duomo, Siena

The interior shown in the picture was built during the first half of the 13th century and completed in the early 1270s.

Palazzo Pubblico Begun 1298 Photo Piazza del Campo, Siena

Palazzo Pubblico
Begun 1298
Photo
Piazza del Campo, Siena

Unlike the brute stony strength of Florence’s Palazzo della Signoria, in Siena brick walls gently bend to embrace the amphitheatre-shaped Piazza del Campo which it faces. Thin marble columns supporting Gothic arches decorate the windows.

An astonishingly tall bell tower – clearly surpassing the height of the civic tower of their rival city Florence – extends from the left wing of the building. A later chapel beneath the tower extends out into the public square and indicates the fusion of Church and state in this city dedicated to the Virgin.

Exterior view of the Cathedral 1270s (completed) Photo Duomo, Siena

Exterior view of the Cathedral
1270s (completed)
Photo
Duomo, Siena

View of the nave and choir began c. 1246 Photo Santa Maria Novella, Florence

View of the nave and choir
began c. 1246
Photo
Santa Maria Novella, Florence

The very large church of the Santa Maria Novella was the first important and independent church in truly Italian style. Its construction began in about 1246 for the Dominican Order. The exact dates of the various parts of the church are still controversial but it certainly took a very long time to build it. The nave was not begun until 1279, and the façade, began in 1310, was not finished until 1470. Nevertheless, the interior and the plan make it the most important church of its date.

This church is perhaps the best example of the simplicity of plan, organization, and detail that characterizes Italian Gothic architecture. The relatively high side aisles are typically Italian.

The Renaissance façade was designed by Leon Battista Alberti in the 1460s.

Palazzo Mastelli del Cammello: Façade 13th century Photo Campo dei Mori, Venice

Palazzo Mastelli del Cammello: Façade
13th century
Photo
Campo dei Mori, Venice

This palace in the Cannaregio district of Venice owes its name to a relief carving set into the wall of the façade representing a man in oriental dress riding a camel. It is the symbol of the owners, the Mastelli family, who came from the Orient in the 12th century.

The most important features on the façade of the Gothic building are the ogival central gallery on the second floor, enriched with quatrefoils and a dentate frame, the corner two-lancet windows on the second floor, and a squat column, standing in the corner window on the first floor.

The palace was rebuilt in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Palazzo Mastelli del Cammello: Façade 13th century Photo Campo dei Mori, Venice

Palazzo Mastelli del Cammello: Façade
13th century
Photo
Campo dei Mori, Venice

Palazzo Corner Loredan Piscopia: Façade 13th century Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Corner Loredan Piscopia: Façade
13th century
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

This palace located on the Canal Grande just after Rialto bridge is now the site of the Municipio di Venezia. While representing a modification of the sixteenth-century building, it still followed the pattern of the Venetian-Byzantine house-storehouse.

Architectural and decorative elements, such as the five-arch loggia directly over the water, and, on the main floor, the façade completely covered by the many-lancet window with round arches on pilasters mean that the architecture is undoubtedly inspired by the thirteenth-century model.

Palazzo Morosini Sagredo: Façade 13th century Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Morosini Sagredo: Façade
13th century
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

This palace was constructed between the 12th and 14th centuries. The four-lancet window on the upper floor is remarkable, framed by an elaborate frieze and adorned with polychrome patera made in precious marbles. The façade was decorated with frescoes. The interior was modernized in the 18th century and richly decorated.

Entrance to the castle 1240 Photo Castel del Monte, Andria

Entrance to the castle
1240
Photo
Castel del Monte, Andria

Castel del Monte (Italian for “Castle of the Mountain”) is a 13th-century citadel and castle situated in Andria in the Apulia region of southeast Italy. It stands on a promontory, where it was constructed during the 1240s by the Emperor Frederick II, who had inherited the lands from his mother Constance of Sicily.

The picture shows the classical entrance in the otherwise purely Gothic castle of Frederick II.

Crash

Advertisements

Sacred Sunday: 11th Century Mosaics in the Baptistery of St John the Baptist, Florence, Italy

Overall view of the Baptistry dedicated to St. John the Baptist 11th century Marble façade Baptistry, Florence

Overall view of the Baptistry dedicated to St. John the Baptist
11th century
Marble façade
Baptistry, Florence

The Baptistry in Florence, dedicated to St John the Baptist, the patron saint of the city, is generally considered to be a Romanesque building dating back to the eleventh century. However, recently it was hypothesized that this construction was erected in the fifth century to commemorate the unexpected victory of Flavius Stilicho over the Vandal, Radagaisus, who was halted in AD 406 at the gates of Florentia. The octagon with its pyramidal-shaped roof would therefore be a Late Roman construction.

The preciousness of the two-colored cladding materials, in geometric divisions, revealing the desire for differentiation from the usual stone or brick masonry, is the distinctive characteristic of the Baptistry façades.

In Florence, the Baptistry is the most representative building in terms of its essential form and the quality of its structure, which epitomizes the unchangeable features of what was to be the best subsequent Florentine architecture.

Mosaic on the vault 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Mosaic on the vault
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

Florence’s octagonal baptistery is one of the most important creations of the so-called Tuscan proto-Renaissance, which is typified by marble exterior sheathing, a rich wall arrangement, and sculptural architectural decor based on structures from antiquity. The decoration of the baptistery’s interior is no less ambitious, it includes an extensive mosaic decor, undertaken in around 1240-50.

The octagonal space is roofed by an eight-sided cloister vault, on whose faces the mosaics are arranged in six horizontal registers, the top two filled with ornamental motifs and single figures, the lower ones featuring complete scenes. This scheme is abandoned only in the three vaulting segments of the west side in which the number of registers is reduced from six to five and the division into registers is interrupted for nearly the entire height by a large figure of Christ as World Judge in a circular aureole that dominate the impression of the whole. The Last Judgment is pictured next to Christ.

Aside from the Last Judgment, the pictorial program consists mainly of the biblical stories long traditional in Rome. The inclusion of a cycle on the life of the church’s patron – here St John the Baptist – had Roman precedents as well, as do the various decorative motifs stretching across the top of the vault.

Roughly sixty to seventy years were required to complete the vaulting mosaics. This long period explains the stylistic differences that can easily be seen in the mosaics, some of them significant. The representations offer insight into the popular style then current in Florence, a mixture of the local late Romanesque and an imported Byzantine revival.

It is not known precisely when the planning and execution of the mosaics were begun and when the work was completed. As for the artists working on the project, almost all the painters who were active in Florence in the period in question have been somewhat associated with the baptistery mosaics. The oldest mosaics are usually attributed to such artists as Coppo di Marcovaldo, his son Salerno, and a certain Meliore. Moreover, a Luccan painter from the circle around Bonaventura Berlighieri and the Master of San Francesco Bardi are also mentioned.

Vault (west half) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (west half)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

The octagonal space is roofed by an eight-sided cloister vault, on whose faces the mosaics are arranged in six horizontal registers, the top two filled with ornamental motifs and single figures, the lower ones featuring complete scenes. This scheme is abandoned only in the three vaulting segments of the west side in which the number of registers is reduced from six to five and the division into registers is interrupted for nearly the entire height by a large figure of Christ as World Judge in a circular aureole that dominate the impression of the whole. The Last Judgment is pictured next to Christ.

Vault (west section, detail) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (west section, detail)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

The large figure of Christ as World Judge in a circular aureole dominates the impression of the whole vault mosaics.

Christ sits enthroned above the heavenly spheres, the top one bordered, like the aureole, with an intricate design reminiscent of textile decoration. His monumental and three-dimensional figure, which overlaps the aureole with its halo and one foot, seems all the more powerful against this delicate decor. Its three-dimensionality is mainly an effect produced by the drapery. In accordance with the description of Last Judgment in the gospel of Matthew, Christ has extended his right hand invitingly, while his left hand indicates rejection. The wounds on his hands and feet are present, but the wound in his side is not shown.

Vault (southwest section) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (southwest section)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

In the southwest section on the left beneath the Christ figure the souls awakened to new life are rising up out of their tombs and being received by angels. This section shows, from the top to the bottom, God the Creator and choirs of angels; angels with instruments of torture, angels with trumpets; the Virgin and Apostles as witnesses to the Last Judgment; the blessed, paradise.

Vault (northwest section) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (northwest section)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

The northwest section presents a vision of hell as a single continuous panorama. Devils of both tiny and monstrous size are taking charge of the resurrected souls and driving them in a great throng toward the pit of the inferno.

This section shows, from the top to the bottom, God the Creator and choirs of angels; angels with trumpets, angels with instruments of torture; John the Baptist and Apostles as witnesses to the Last Judgment; the damned, hell.

Vault (north section) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (north section)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

Aside from the Last Judgment, the pictorial program consists mainly of the biblical stories long traditional in Rome. The north section contains the following, from the top to the bottom: potestates; the Creation (creation of the world, creation of Adam and Eve); the story of Joseph (Joseph’s dream, Joseph relating his dream, Joseph with his brothers in Dotan); the life of Christ (Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity); the story of St John (annunciation to Zacharias, nativity of the Baptist and namegiving, the young Baptist in the wilderness).

Vault (northeast section) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (northeast section)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

Vault (eastern section) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (eastern section)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

Vault (southeast section) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (southeast section)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

Vault (south section) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (south section)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

Vault (northwest section, bottom register) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (northwest section, bottom register)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

The northwest section presents a vision of hell as a single continuous panorama. Devils of both tiny and monstrous size are taking charge of the resurrected souls and driving them in a great throng toward the pit of the inferno. They are being attacked and tortured by serpent-, frog-, and lizard-like creatures and diligent, multicolored servants of the devil, some of whom are bringing new offerings to a clearly insatiable Lucifer enthroned in the centre of the underworld. The face of the prince of hell is a fierce grotesque; huge horns curve upward out of his bare skull, and voracious serpents wind out of his ass’s ears and his backside to gorge on the newly arrived souls. Other punishments are pictured as well.

Vault (northwest section, detail) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (northwest section, detail)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

In this detail of the Hell, devils of both tiny and monstrous size are taking charge of the resurrected souls and driving them in a great throng toward the pit of the inferno.

Vault (northwest section, detail) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (northwest section, detail)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

In this detail of the Hell, the resurrected souls are being attacked and tortured by serpent-, frog-, and lizard-like creatures and diligent, multicolored servants of the devil.

Vault (northwest section, detail) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (northwest section, detail)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

Devils of both tiny and monstrous size are taking charge of the resurrected souls and driving them in a great throng toward the pit of the inferno. They are being attacked and tortured by serpent-, frog-, and lizard-like creatures and diligent, multicolored servants of the devil, some of whom are bringing new offerings to a clearly insatiable Lucifer enthroned in the center of the underworld. The face of the prince of hell is a fierce grotesque; huge horns curve upward out of his bare skull, and voracious serpents wind out of his ass’s ears and his backside to gorge on the newly arrived souls.

Vault (northwest section, detail) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (northwest section, detail)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

Vault (northeast section, detail) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (northeast section, detail)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

This detail of the northeast section of the vault depicts the Adoration of the King (fifth register, first scene).

Vault (south section, detail) 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vault (south section, detail)
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

This detail of the south section of the vault depicts the Crucifixion (fifth register, first scene).

Vaulting in the chancel 1240-1300 Mosaic Baptistry, Florence

Vaulting in the chancel
1240-1300
Mosaic
Baptistry, Florence

The central motif of the vaulting mosaic in the Scarcella (the chancel) in its wheel-like scheme is the Lamb of God, around which is a radial arrangement of patriarchs and prophets. The wheel is supported by four Atlantes kneeling on Corinthian capitals on the diagonal axes, between which an enthroned Madonna and Child and an enthroned John the Baptist fill the south and north vaulting panels.

A master named Fra Jacopo, who came from Venice, was responsible for the four Atlantes in the chancel vault.

Next week, it’s 12th Century Romanesque stained glass windows in Germany:

Samson with the City Gates of Gaza 1180-1200 Stained glass window Würtenbergisches Landesmuseum, Stuttgart, Germany

Samson with the City Gates of Gaza
1180-1200
Stained glass window
Würtenbergisches Landesmuseum, Stuttgart, Germany

This stained glass window comes from the Monastery of Alpirsbach.

Crash