Saturday, April 18, 2015

A New Show of Precious Sculptures at the Vatican

The Basilica of St Peter is hosting an especially interesting show of sacred sculptures in gold, silver and bronze, from now until June 30; the objects displayed include reliquaries of various kinds, as well as chalices, pax bredes and processional crosses, from several different periods. As I was visiting the show yesterday, I had the good fortune to overhear one of the curators, Dr Benedetta Montevecchi, talking about some of the items to her colleagues, and I had to interrupt her briefly to express my appreciation of her work, which is accompanied by a some very useful didactic material. She explained to me that most of the objects have been brought to Rome from small towns in the province of Lazio which are rarely if ever visited by tourists; the show provides a unique opportunity to see a good number of very beautiful pieces which otherwise could only be seen with a fair amount of travel and the good will of friendly clerics and sacristans. In particular, many of the reliquaries are only brought out on the patronal feast days of these small towns.

To protect these precious works from thievery and grubby fingers, they are almost all displayed in glass cases, the constant bane of rank amateurs with cameras like myself, but a fair number of these came out reasonably well. (In many of them, you can the reflections of objects from other parts of the show.) I will post more photos in further posts next week. If you are in Rome anytime until June 30, you can visit the show yourself in the Braccio Carlo Magno, on the left side of St Peter’s Square; it is definitely well worth your time.

Silver reliquary of St Ambrose, Roman soldier and martyr, Patron of the city of Ferentino; made by Fantino Taglietti in 1641. From the co-cathedral of Ss John and Paul.
The Coronation of the Virgin, and Four Saints; embossed silver on wood, Lazio, end 14th-century; from the treasury museum of the Cathedral of Veroli.
Reliquary of St Blase; Lazio, 18th-century; from the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Cantalupo-in-Sabina
Reliquary of the Cross in silver (partially gilded); by Domenico Mariani, 1755; from the church of St John the Baptist in Campagnano di Roma.
Reliquary of the Blood of St Lawrence by Antoni Arrighi (1687-1776), from the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Amaseno
Reliquary statue of St Roch in silver and bronze; work of a Neapolitan silversmith, 18th-century; from the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Cisterna di Latina. Above it can be seen the reflection of a video of a religious procession, in which a reliquary is being carried on a float.
Left, an 18th-century silver reliquary of St Hermes, a freed slave martyred at Rome in the early second century; from his church in Ischia di Castro. Right, a holy water stoup in silver and copper, partly gilded, by Filippo Galassi (1685-1757); from the Museum of the abbey of Montecassino.
A base for a cross or reliquary in silver and enamel, with the Flight into Egypt; Angevin French, 13th century; from the archdiocesan museum of Gaeta.
Bronze reliquary of St Nicholas of Bari, Roman, first half of the 18th-century; from the museum of the parish of San Nicola in Mazzano Romano.
Reliquary statue of St Sebastian in silver and copper by Giovanni Giardini (1636-1722), from the church of Santissima Annunziata in Fumone.
An 18th-century gilded silver chalice made in Rome.

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