Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Treasury of Santa Giulia in Brescia

Our Ambrosian correspondent Nicola de’ Grandi recently visited the monastery complex of Santa Giulia in the city of Brescia, and sent me some great pictures from the church and the adjoining museum. This monastery was founded by the duke of Lombardy, Desiderius, in the year 753, and was formerly one of the most important women’s monastic foundations in northern Italy. The video below, from the Italian website Stile Arte, is about the greatest treasure of the monastery, the Cross of Desiderius, a processional cross made of wood covered by gilded metal, and decorated with 211 gems of various kinds. On the front, the figure of Christ enthroned was probably added in the 9th-century, and most of the gems are medieval; on the back is a figure of the Crucified Christ, added in the 16th century, and many of the gems are ancient Roman works. It is believed that the Roman gems were removed from various earlier pieces of jewelry which were brought to the monastery as part of the “dowry” of the nuns when they entered, and some of them may very well have come from an imperial treasury.


The images that follow are Nicola’s photographs.
An ivory casket formerly used to keep relics, from the 4th century.

A Lombard-era relief carving of the Cross (8th century)
Frescos in the nuns’ choir by Floriano Ferramola (Crucifixion) and Paolo da Caylina the Younger (the Resurrection), both from 1520.

A pax-brede made in Venice in the fiurst half of the 16th-century.
An ivory diptych with scenes from the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary, made in Paris ca. 1360-80
Two pieces of cloth found in a reliquary casket under the altar of the church of Saint Afra in Brescia, after it was bombed in 1945. The piece on the left is Middle Eastern, made sometime in the 8th or 9th century; the piece on the right is of Byzantine workmanship, from the 9th-11th century.

The following two photos are of the famous Winged Victory of Brescia, made in the second quarter of the first century A.D., one of the best preserved bronze statues from antiquity. It was discovered in the city in 1826, and is now displayed in the Santa Giulia Museum, but was never part of the church or monastery.

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