Wednesday, June 26, 2024

The Cathedral of St Vigilius in Trent

Last month, we published pictures of the basilica of St Simplician in Milan, which houses the relics of Ss Sisinnius, Martyrius and Alexander, a group missionaries who were martyred at Anaunia, north of Trent, where they had been sent by St Ambrose at the behest of St Vigilius, the bishop of Trent. Today is the feast of Vigilius himself, who followed in their footsteps, and was also martyred while preaching to the pagans, in the year 405. The cathedral of Trent is dedicated to him, and is of course is also famous as the site of the great ecumenical council of the 16th century. Here are some photos taken by Nicola de’ Grandi.

The church was begun in the year 1212 at the initiative of bishop Federico Vanga, under the architect Adamo D’Arogno, to replace a much older structure. The Romanesque façade was meant to be seen up close, since the piazza in front of it was quite small until the 19th century. The original plan was to have a bell-tower on either side, but only one was completed; in the 18th century, it was capped with an onion dome of the kind seen all over the Adige valley. (In point of fact, this architectural form, which is thought of as typically Russian, was introduced into that country by Italian and German architects during the great Westernization movement of Tsar Peter I.)
The north side of the church, with a rose-window designed to represent the Wheel of Fortune, and the bishop’s palace behind the church (to the left in this photo).
The “bishops’ door”, which they would use to enter the church for major ceremonies, made in the 16th century with several pieces reused from an earlier version: the image of St Vigilus above the door, the two lions on which the front columns rest, and the lunette above the door with Christ the Pantocrator and the symbols of the Four Evangelists. 
The current high altar is the result of a major restructuring done in 1739, which eliminated not only the church’s small crypt, but also the large choir behind the altar in which the major sessions of the Council of Trent were held.
The relics of St Vigilius in the altar
As seen in the two paintings further down, during the major sessions of the Council, this wooden Crucifix by an artist from Nuremberg called Sixtus Frey, ca. 1505, was set up on an altar at the head of the area where the Council Fathers sat. In 1682, it was removed to this new Baroque chapel constructed by the Prince Bishop of Trent, Francesco Alberti-Pola, the decorations of which are a unitary program on the theme of human redemption. The marble sculpture of the Fall of Man by Francesco Barbacovi is particularly fine.
In the same chapel, two works by the German Baroque painter Karl Loth, the Resurrection...
and the Nativity of Christ.
Two paintings which show sessions of the Council of Trent held in the church.
The Coronation of the Virgin, with Saints Vigilius and the Martyrs of Anaunia, by Paolo Naurizio, 1583.
The tomb of Bishop Udalric Lichtenstein (1493-1505)
A 13th-century relief of the Stoning of St Stephen
The north transept, now used as a baptistery; on the walls, a fresco of the Legend of St Julian the Hospitaler, ca. 1365, signed by an otherwise unknown artist “Mons from Bologna.” Beneath, votive paintings by various artists: the Beheading of the Baptist (attributed to Thomas of Modena), a Madonna and Child, the Trinity, the Mystical Marriage of St Catherine, the Appearance of the Risen Christ to Mary Magdalene, the Birth of Christ, and the death of the Virgin. Until 1977, the stone box contained the remains of the Prince Bishop Bartolomeo Querini (1304-7).
A twelfth century sculpture of the Madonna and Child known as the “Madonna of the Drowned”, referring to the victims of the flooding of the Adige river. In the sarcophagus below it are the remains of Bishop Giovanni Nepomuceno de Tschiderer (1834-60), beatified at Trent by Pope St John Paul II on April 30, 1995.
From the diocesan museum: school of Rueland Fruehaf the Elder, Madonna and Child enthroned with Ss George and Vigilius, with a canon of the cathedral, George Nothafi.
Giovanni Francesco Caroto, Madonna and Child enthroned with with Ss Maxentia, Vigilius, Jerome and the young John the Baptist, 1540 ca.

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