Thursday, October 12, 2023

The Cathedral of Parma

For a random day in the Marian month of October, here are some pictures which Nicola de’ Grandi took of the cathedral of Parma, Italy, which is dedicated to the Assumption. This will be followed up with pictures from the diocesan museum, and an updated set from the marvelous Romanesque baptistery, which is full of frescos in a fairly good state of preservation.  

The façade, completed in 1178, and the belltower, seen from one of the narrow medieval streets across the piazza. The tower was built in 1284-94, and was originally supposed to have a twin on the opposite side of the church, but this was never even begun.

Lions, copied from Roman sarcophagi, were a popular motif in the Italian Romanesque, and often placed to either side of the main door of church with columns resting on their back to hold up a porch above it.  
The interior decorations are largely the result of a massive renovation and restoration of the 16th century. The vault of the nave was frescoed with prophets, angels and symbolic figures of the virtues by an artist native to the city, Girolamo Bedoli (1500 ca. - 1569), between 1555-57.
The illusionistic fresco of the Assumption inside the cupola is by Parma’s best known artist of the High Renaissance, Antonio Allegri (1499-1534), generally known as il Correggio. (Gregorio Allegri, composer of the famous Miserere, was of the same family, but born half a century after his death.)
The preaching pulpit, 1613, by Paolo Froni
Remains of some carved decoration of the church’s Romanesque beginnings.
The counterfaçade is dominated by a fresco of the Ascension, by a painter from Brescia in Lombardy, Lattanzio Gambara (1530ca. - 1574), completed from 1571-73.
From 1567 to 1573, Gambara also decorated the nave with a series of frescos in three thematically related bands: on the lower arches, episodes and personages from the Old Testament; in the middle, above the columns of the matroneum, scenes from the New Testament; and in the clerestory, allegorical figures. These kinds of highly complex and detailed fresco cycles, in which the individual images are packed tight with figures, were very popular in the later part of the 16th century, the artistic period known as Mannerism. (The 17th century Baroque style which followed it is generally thought of now as extremely complex, but the artists of the Baroque considered themselves to be the restorers of simplification and clarity.) Here we see Gambara’s depictions of the Annunciation and the Birth of Christ.
The Circumcision and the Massacre of the Innocents.
Christ among the Doctors, and the Baptism in the Jordan. 
The early miracles: healing of the paralytic let down through the roof, and the calming of the sea.
The Transfiguration and Entry into Jerusalem.
The Last Supper, Crucifixion and Resurrection.
The altar of a side chapel known as the chapel of the Comune, dedicated to the soldier saints Sebastian and Florian. (“Comune” is the Italian word for the free city-states that dominated the northern part of the peninsula in the Middle Ages and well into the Renaissance, and is still used to mean a city municipality.)
The wall frescos of this chapel, works of unknown artists of the early 15th century which recount the lives of the two Saints, still mostly survive, although not in the best condition.
The Valeri chapel, also frescoed in the early 15th century

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