Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Museum of the Shrine of St Michael the Archangel on Mount Gargano

Following up on our recent post about the shrine of the Archangel Michael on Mt Gargano in the Italian region of Puglia, here are some items of interest from the church’s museum. Unfortunately, not a lot of information about them is given in the didactic panels.

A gilded copper image of St Michael from the first half of the 11th century.
A fifteenth century statue of Christ the Redeemer, possibly made by a Catalan sculptor, in the period when the kingdom of Naples, which included the whole of southern Italy, was united to the Crown of Aragon.
Some surviving parts of an ambo commissioned by Leo, bishop of Siponto, whose territory included the shrine, and installed in 1041 by a sculptor named Acceptus, who was also archdeacon of the diocese. Although beautifully made for its period, it is hardly surprising that later eras considered the style extremely primitive, hence its replacement during one of the church’s many renovations.
This baptismal font (the subject of our last NLM quiz) was made in the 12th century; the central part has a depression in the middle of it to hold the water, while the upper part, which is now missing a large section, was the cover.
Closer views of the four sides, each of which is decorated with two Biblical stories. Upper register: the Annunciation to Mary; lower register, the Annunciation to Zachary.
Upper register: the Nativity; lower register, Balaam and the Ass. (This latter story is a prelude to the Epiphany because of the words of Balaam’s prophecy, “A star shall rise out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel”, Numbers 24, 17.)
Upper register: the Crucifixion, with the Virgin Mary to the right; lower register, Ss Peter and Paul.
Upper register: the Ascension, with the Virgin Mary to the right; lower register, Moses makes water run from the rock, as recounted in Numbers 20, an episode long associated with the sacrament of Baptism.
The corners of the base are decorated with lions, one of the most popular animals in Romanesque decorations, each holding a crown above a column on one of the sides.
Part of a Romanesque decorative column from the abbey of Santa Maria in Pulsano, which is located on other side of Mt Gargano.
A statue of St Michael by a local sculptor, 15th or 16 century.
The museum is housed in the rooms of the church’s crypt, which are within the buttresses that hold the church up along the flat side of the mountain. Here is a view from one of the rooms up a staircase that is no longer used.

Two parts of the cliffside which are now also enclosed within the rooms of the crypt; these man-made caves were anciently part of a hermitage attached to the shrine.
This one has been painted quite recently with a Byzantine-style image of Christ’s Baptism.

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