Monday, May 29, 2023

The Cathedral of Modena: Part 2 - the Interior

I recently posted some photographs taken by Nicola of the exterior of the cathedral of St Geminianus in Modena, one of my favorite churches in all of Italy. Today we follow up with some of the interior, which is arranged in a manner fairly common for the Romanesque period in northern Italy; the main sanctuary is at a considerably higher level than the floor of the nave, and has a crypt below it. Furthermore, the rood screen in front of the altar was never removed, so this is a place where get a really good sense of what a church of the 12th century was actually like.

The sanctuary seen from the nave...
and the nave seen from the sanctuary.
The reliefs on the liturgical pulpit show Christ and the Four Evangelists; those on the balustrade show the Passion of Christ. For obvious reasons, the Last Supper is given a prominent place, perhaps in deliberate imitation of the Byzantine custom of representing it on the iconostasis.
St Peter and the rooster
Judas receives his 30 silverpieces from Caiaphas; note that has has not yet quite taken the money, and therefore still has his halo, a sign of his dignity as one of the twelve disciples and first bishops.
The cathedral is also dedicated to the Assumption. The Apostles Peter and Paul stand to either side of Christ and the Virgin, the four Evangelists are below them between the windows of the apse, and the rest of the Apostles are on the arch in front of it.
The side chapel to the right of the main apse; the mosaic is a modern copy of the one in the apse of the basilica of St Clement in Rome.
The preaching pulpit in the nave, added in 1322.
A side chapel known as the “altar of the little statues”, made by a Florentine sculptor named Michael in 1440-1.
Remains of medieval votive frescoes on the wall next to the right staircase of the main sanctuary. It was popularly believed in the Middle Ages that if one saw an image of St Christopher (and presumably offered some prayer asking for his protection), on that day one would suffer no harm.  Many churches had very large images of him, such that one could hardly fail to see him; many scholars believe that the popular idea that he was a giant comes from people frequently seeing such large pictures of him.
The balcony of the sanctuary is partly supported by these columns resting on the backs of lions, a very popular motif in Romanesque church decoration.
The crypt
The baptismal font, with a fresco of the Last Judgment behind it, painted by one or more unknown artists from Modena in the 15th century.
This altarpiece in the left apse was painted by an artist from Modena named Serafino de’ Serafini in 1385; the Coronation of the Virgin, with Ss Christopher, Nicholas, Geminianus, and Anthony the Abbot; above, the Crucifixion and Annunciation, and below, Christ among the Twelve Apostles. 
The front of the altar is a marble carving of the ninth century, rescued from the demolition of the previous church on this site. 

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