Wednesday, July 07, 2021

The Abbey of Pomposa (Part 2): Frescoes of the Nave, Chapterhouse and Refectory

As we noted in part 1 of Nicola’s photos of the Abbey of Pomposa, the church building preserves a huge amount of fresco work in the nave, which is still in very good condition. These frescoes are the work of a group of anonyous artists of the artistic school of Bologna, and were executed in the 14th century. The upper stage has episodes of the Old Testament, the middle of the New, while the arcades over the columns show stories from the Apocalypse. (These photos partially overlap; the description of a scene will not be repeated if it appears in the previous photo.) Below we see the chapterhouse, also painted in the 14th century, but by a different unknown artist, believed to be a student of Giotto.

Starting on the right side of the church, running from the apse towards the façade. Upper stage: Cain and Abel; Noah’s Ark; Abraham meets the three angels. Middle stage: the Annunciation and Visitation; the Birth of Christ; the Adoration of the Magi; part of the Massacre of the Innocents. On the arcade: St John’s vision of the angel amid the candlesticks; Christ amid the twenty-four elders; the Lamb of God and the four animals.
Upper stage at the right: the hospitality of Abraham; the Blessing of Isaac. Middle stage, in the middle: a more complete view of the Massacre of the Innocents; the Presentation. On the arcade, middle and right: the Four Horsemen.
Upper stage at the right: Jacob’s dream of the ladder; Joseph’s dream of the sheaves (partial). Middle stage, in the middle: the Baptism of Christ; the Wedding at Cana. On the arcade, middle and right: the angels pouring their phials upon the earth.
Upper stage: Joseph’s dream of the sheaves; Joseph sold to the Midianites; Joseph in the house of Potiphar; Joseph and his brothers; the sons of Israel are introduced to Pharaoh. Middle stage: the Wedding at Cana; the healing of the daughter of Jairus.
On the counterfaçade; the Last Judgment. The fresco cycles continue on the left wall of the nave in the opposite direction, from the counterfaçade towards the apse. On the arcade: the dragon with seven heads and the woman clothed with the sun.
Middle stage: the Resurrection of Lazarus; the triumphal entry into Jerusalem; the Last Supper and the betrayal of Judas. On the arcade: the dragon with seven heads and the woman clothed with the sun; the Archangel Michael thrusts Satan into hell.
Middle stage, in the middle: the events in the garden of Gethsemane; the Crucifixion.
Middle stage: the Crucifixion; the body of Christ it taken down from the Cross and laid in the tomb; the appearance of the angel to the women at the tomb; the appearance of the Risen Christ to Mary Magdalene.
Middle stage; the Resurrection stories continue with the appearance to the disciples in the locked room; the Ascension and Pentecost.
The frescoes in the chapter house are also works of the early to middle decades of the 14th century, attributed to an anonymous follower of Giotto,. In this Crucifixion sccene, we see more of the classically Florentine concern with perspective, as opposed to the more decorative works of the nave in the style of Bologna.
On the north wall, St Benedict amid various prophets (partly ruined).
On the south wall, St Guido, Abbot of Pomposa (970-1046), amid various prophets.
The walls of the refectory were painted by an anonymous artist known as the Tolentino Master, also active in the 14th century. Here we see on the left the Last Supper; in the middle, Christ in majesty with (left to right) St Benedict, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist and St Guido; on the right, a miracle of St Guido, in which he transforms water into wine while dining with the archbishop of Ravenna.

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