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Pietro Vannucci, known as Il Perugino, is considered one of the greatest exponents of humanism and the greatest representative of Umbrian painting in the 15th century. The painter moves in a historical context that is that of late humanism. «In the city of Perugia was born to a poor person from Castello della Pieve, called Christophe, a son who at baptism was called Peter (…) studied under the discipline of Andrea Verrocchio». (The lives of the most excellent Italian architects, painters, and sculptors, from Cimabue to our times. Part two. Giorgio Vasari).

Self-portrait

Perugino was born in 1450 in Città della Pieve and its first Umbrian artistic experiences were probably based on local workshops such as those of Bartolomeo Caporali and Fiorenzo di Lorenzo. From a very young age he moved to Florence, where he started attending one of the most important workshops: Andrea del Verrocchio’s. The city of the Medici was fundamental for its formation.
His masterpieces conceal religious intimacy: the gentle hills typical of Umbria, the wooded landscape realized with more shades of green, the soft-patterned characters and the fluttering tapes of the angels are his decorative styling that he then transmitted also to his pupil: Raphael.

The works in Umbria and beyond

One of his first documented works is The Adoration of the Magi, and the gonfalone with the Pietà, both in the exhibition halls of the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria. In 1473 Perugino received the first significant commission of his career: the Franciscans of Perugia asked him to decorate the niche of San Bernardino.
Later (1477-1478) is the detached fresco, today in the Pinacoteca Comunale of Deruta, with the Eternal Father with the saints Rocco and Romano, with a rare view of Deruta in the lower register; probably commissioned to invoke the protection of the Saints Roman and Rocco, since an epidemic of plague raged in the territory of Perugia. In 1478 he continued to work in Umbria, painting the frescoes of the Chapel of La Maddalena in the parish church of Cerqueto, near Perugia.
When he reached fame, he was called to Rome in 1479, where he carried out one of the greatest and most prestigious works: the decoration of the Sistine Chapel, work in which also Cosimo Rosselli, Botticelli, and the Ghirlandaio. It is here that he realizes one of his many masterpieces: The Delivery of the Keys to Saint Peter, the Baptism of Christ and the Journey of Moses to Egypt. In the next ten years Perugino continued to gravitate between Rome, Florence and Perugia.
Between 1495 and 1496, he created another masterpiece: the Pala dei Decemviri, so called because it was commissioned by the decemviri of Perugia. In the same period he worked on the decoration of the Sala dell’Udienza in the Collegio del Cambio in Perugia, a cycle completed in 1500. In 1501-1504 is the year in which he made the Marriage of the Virgin, painted for the Chapel of the Holy Ring in the Cathedral of Perugia, iconography taken by Raphael for the church of San Francesco in Città di Castello.

 

Marriage of the Virgin

 

Perugino continued to receive commissions; in fact he realized the Madonna of Consolation, the gonfalone of Justice and the Pala Tezi, preserved in the exhibition halls of the National Gallery of Umbria and the Resurrection for San Francesco al Prato. Excellent works of the painter are also preserved in Città della Pieve, not far from the border with nearby Tuscany. At Santa Maria dei Bianchi and the Cathedral of SS Gervasio and Protasio, there are some of his most significant works such as the Adoration of the Magi.[1]
Following the footsteps of Perugino, you must sop in Panicale, a picturesque village that is part of the most beautiful villages in Italy. In the Church of San Sebastiano there is the work the Martyrdom of San Sebastiano, an entire wall frescoed by the artist.

 

Martyrdom of San Sebastiano

 

Another important stop to discover the whole art of the Divin Pittore is Fontignano, where in 1511 Perugino established his workshop to escape the plague. But the painter died because of the plague in 1523-1524, while he was working on a fresco depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds commissioned for the small Church of the Annunziata. That fresco then was finished by his students, and finally a Madonna with child, the last work he completed in 1522.
Perugino was the initiator of a new way of painting; the artist goes in constant search of landscapes of wider breath, admiring the example of previous Florentines such as Filippo Lippi, Domenico Veneziano and Beato Angelico. The Perugino proceeds towards a slow and gradual conquest of the natural. The harmony inherent in the landscape of Perugia was created by a mystical approach with nature and by an art that, rather than being based on the intellect and training of the eye, as happened in Florence, flowed from the heart and strength of feelings.[2] The Perugino thus marked the taste of an era.

 


[1] Emma Bianchi, “Petro penctore”: l’Adorazione dei magi e la confraternita di Santa Maria dei Bianchi di Città della Pieve, in Perugino e il paesaggio, Silvana Editoriale, 2004, pp. 119-128.
[2] Silvia Blasio, Il paesaggio nella pittura di Pietro Perugino, in Perugino e il paesaggio, Silvana Editoriale, 2004, pp. 15-41.

Berto di Giovanni is a very important Umbrian painter because he helps us understand how the art of Perugino and Raphael greatly influenced even the smallest Umbrian personalities.

Berto di Giovanni is mentioned for the first time in a notarial deed dated 3rd January 1488. His name appears in the freshman painters for Porta Sole, although some documents mention him as Alberto or Ruberto. He is mentioned Chamberlain of Art and in 1502 he receives various payments together with Eusebio da San Giorgio and Nicolò da Cesena for the fresco, now disappeared, of a room intended for the bishop in the canonical of the cathedral.

 


St. John the Evangelist writes the Apocalypse. Perugia, Nazioanle Gallery of Umbria

In Perugino’s workshop

Berto di Giovanni worked in Perugino’s workshop together with other notable personalities: Eusebio da San Giorgio, Sinibaldo Ibi, Ludovico d’Angelo and Lattanzio di Giovanni. The store was a small reality in which social contrasts, their own time and their own experience were shared. This community led to the development of a Koiné, a style in which it becomes really difficult to try to isolate individual shaded areas in precise contours, suffocated by the need to adhere to a common and winning style.[1]
The most important work is the Madonna and Child with Saints James the Greater and Francis; first in San Francesco del Monte and now in the National Gallery of Umbria. The Virgin, seated in a vast landscape, holds the Child in her lap, holding a wreath of flowers in her hands, the Saints kneeling beside her, while two angels in flight place a crown on her head. The Child derives from the overturned cardboard used for the Madonna of the Kress collection, now in the National Gallery of Washington, with appropriate modifications to the little face and the right arm to make him hold, very visibly, the crown of flowers. The landscape, which opens behind the protagonists, makes the table even more fascinating. The figurative language of the composition seems to be articulated on several registers: on the one hand the calmness of a typically composition by Perugino, on the other a more modern evolution of the characters.[2]
Dated 1507 is the Sacred Conversation, now in London at Buckinghain Palace, in which they are depicted the Nativity of the Assumption and the Marriage of the Virgin. The altarpiece shows a prevalent Peruginesque influence with some memories of Pala Ansidei by Raphael.The painter also participated in an excellent work, now preserved in the Vatican Art Gallery: the Coronation of the Virgin, made by Raphael, then completed by Giulio Romano and Francesco Penni. Berto di Giovanni took part in the construction of the predella, now in the National Gallery of Umbria.[3]

 

 

Banner in the cathedral of Perugia

 

In the four scenes the strong color contrasts show the clear influence of Giulio Romano. In fact in the last period, Berto di Giovanni was attracted by the great painter. Walking through the halls of the National Gallery of Umbria you can admire other masterpieces of the painter: St. John the Evangelist in Patmos with the Eternal and the Stories of the saint, which was executed for the Cistercians of St. Giuliana in Perugia. In the table we can see the clumsy representation of the evangelist taken from the figure of Pythagoras in the School of Athens. The last certain work preserved in the cathedral of Perugia is a standar painted in 1526 on the occasion of the plague.[4]

 


[1]Laura Teza, A painting in society: Perugino, Berto di Giovanni and the Store  of 1496, pp. 47-61, in Pietro Vannucci and the Perugian Painters of the early sixteenth century. Mondays of the Gallery. Proceedings of the Conferences 23 February- 10 May  2004, curated by Paola Mercurelli Salari, Superintendency for Architectural Heritage, Landscape, Umbria’s Historic Artistic and Ethno-anthropological Heritage, Perugia, Ponte San Giovanni.
[2] F. Santi, National Gallery of Umbria. Paintings, sculptures and objects of the XV-XVI centuries, Rome, 1985, p. 140, considers it Giannicola, while F. Todini, The Umbrian painting from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, Milan, 1989, I, p. 278 e P. Mercurelli Salari, Painter from Perugia area 9. Madonna with Child, two angels, the Saints Giacomo Maggiore and Francesco, in Perugino and the landscape, catalog of the exhibition (Città della Pieve, 28 February-18 July 2004), Milan 2004 , p .60 close to Berto di Giovanni.
[3] Dictionary of Painters and Engravers Biographical and Critical, by Michael Bryan, p. 119, New Edition Revised and Enlarged, Edit by Robert Edmund Graves B.A., of the British Museum. Volume I A-K, London 1886.
[4] Encyclopedia Treccani, Biographical Dictionary of Italians, Volume IX, 1967.

I was talking to a friend of mine who decided to spend her holidays in Umbria. I found myself giving advice on local design-themed itineraries! Thinking about which stages could be more curious and interesting, I could not help mixing design with craftsmanship and architecture, facets of a single large area made of manual skills, planning and creativity that strongly characterizes the Umbrian territory.

Piazza Nuova in Fontivegge

Piazza Nuova in Fontivegge

 

During our chat, my friend was pleasantly surprised by the amount of small and large companies operating in these areas, but, to tell the truth, what she found most interesting was Aldo Rossi, architect and designer who worked in Perugia, drafting, in the Eighties, the project for the redevelopment of the Fontivegge district, designing a new face for the former Piazza del Bacio, now Piazza Nuova.

I will tell you what I told her a few days ago and I leave you some indications for a short route through this architectural work, the most important of Perugia in the Twentieth century.

The itinerary

Leave your car in Pian di Massiano and get the Minimetro: by doing so you can easily reach the Fontivegge district which, a few steps from the railway station, houses the complex of offices and houses that embrace the square. Coming from the station, you enter this space by passing through a large staircase; as soon as you go up, the feeling you have is to be extremely small because of the grandeur of the buildings surrounding this urban space. The eye is immediately enraptured by the main building, a modern temple with clock, characterized by a massive colonnade with a staircase that, like a fortress, dominates the area; on the sides, there are two other buildings with a highly rational character. In the center of the square stands a fountain with straight lines and a monolithic appearance, today – alas – without water. Other modern residential and commercial buildings complete the modern acropolis.

The architect accepted the assignment in 1983, designing the long-awaited business center. In fact, in the previous decade, the international competition launched by the municipal administration had been cancelled, since the winning project was too oversized and expensive to afford, especially because of the crisis that ran in the Seventies.

 

Architecture

Rossi, who was the first Italian to win the Pritzker Prize for architecture, designs a long brick-paved pedestrian square that follows the natural slope, similar to other Umbrian squares placed in the city center. Looking for dialogue and integration with the past, Aldo Rossi – in this as in many other projects – makes use of archetypes, recurring elementary geometric shapes in the history of architecture, easily recognizable and capable of making the project surprisingly innovative and traditional at the same time. In this regard, someone wanted to see in Piazza Nuova the modern revival of Piazza IV Novembre with the steps of San Lorenzo, Palazzo dei Priori and the Fontana Maggiore. Pure and essential geometries are also recurring in his projects as designers; at the beginning of the 1980s, Rossi devoted himself to this type of activity by designing miniature architectures for Alessi, creating poetic small-scale domestic landscapes; the Tea & Coffee Piazza project is the realization of this definition.

 

Piazza Nuova

Piazza Nuova

Stories, activities and projects

A story full of contaminations, therefore. I leave you with a last note: walking towards the park, you can notice a curious conical brick structure dating back to the 1920s, which break the penalty. It is the testimony of its original use, intended for one of the most important activities of Perugia; this brick tower is in fact a find of industrial archaeology: it is one of the old smokestacks of the Perugina confetti and chocolates factory that occupied this place from 1915 (year in which, in addition to the production of sugared almonds, the production line comes into operation cocoa powder and cocoa butter) until 1965, the year of transfer to the new industrial plant in San Sisto.

The original project, which also included the construction of a theater, was never completed and Rossi’s Piazza Nuova never played the role of modern acropolis desired at the time of the project. However, the charm of the monument remains intact. «I have always thought of architecture as a monument… only when it is realized as a monument does it constitute a place». A. Rossi

Rossi’s Piazza Nuova is also destined to have a new redevelopment; in these days, work began on the implementation of a project presented by the municipal administration. Who knows if this place will finally manage to have the long-awaited social and urban role thought by Rossi?

Bernardino di Betto, known as Pinturicchio, was born in Perugia in 1454 by Benedetto di Biagio, in the neighborhood of Porta Sant’Angelo.[1] He was probably called Pinturicchio because of his tiny stature.

He was the heir to an important pictorial and miniaturist tradition, which has its precedents in Bartolomeo Caporali, Fiorenzo di Lorenzo and Benedetto Bonfigli. The Pinturicchio stood out as one of the architects of the great Renaissance season of rediscovery of classicism: in fact he copied the frescos of the Domus Aurea, and contributing to the spread of the grotesque.
He entered the Perugino’s workshop and collaborated with his teacher in Rome, between 1481 and 1482, creating two frescoes: the Baptism of Christ and the Circumcision of the sons of Moses in the Sistine Chapel.
In 1486 he executed the Stories of St. Bernardino that decorate the Bufalini Chapel in S. Maria in Ara Coeli. These frescoes were commissioned to the painter by messer Niccolò di Manno Bufalini, a concistorial lawyer, to recall the proximity between his family and the Baglioni of Perugia, thanks to S. Bernardino. In Rome he also came into contact with the painting of the Ghirlandaio and the Botticelli, who contributed to his artistic formation.
In the second half of the Fifteenth century, the artist made a small but delicious tempera on a table depicting the Madonna and Child and San Giovanni, preserved in the Duomo Museum in Città di Castello.

 

Madonna and Child and San Giovanni

 

The small table depicts Mary, Child Jesus, standing on the knees of her mother and Saint John the Baptist, who holds the inscription Ecce Agnus Dei. The three figures are bright on a broad background, with a composed and severe stylistic language.
The artist returned to Perugia on 14 February 1495, concluding, with the religious of the convent of S. Maria degli Angeli in Porta S. Pietro, the contract for the realization of the Polyptych of S. Maria dei Fossi, now in the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria. The contract for the work has reached us and contains very detailed instructions about the realization, which was intended for the high altar for the church, called dei Fossi. The painter was at the time at the height of his success, favourite by Pope Alexander VI for whom he had just concluded the great undertaking of the decoration of the Borgia apartment.

 

Polyptych of S. Maria dei Fossi

 

The altarpiece is now composed of seven main panels; in the centre stands the Madonna with the child and Saint John, flanked by Saints Augustine and Jerome, dressed as a cardinal and with a model of the church in hand, perhaps the same Santa Maria degli Angeli. Above them two panels with the Announcing Angel and the Virgin announced. On the tree stands the dead Christ supported by two angels and the Dove of the Holy Spirit.
In 1497 the frescoes were painted for the decoration of the Eroli chapel in the Cathedral of Spoleto, portraying the Madonna and Child between San Giovanni Battista and Leonardo, immersed in a sweet lake landscape typical of the Umbrian school.
In 1501 Pinturicchio made another of his best works the chapel Baglioni in Santa Maria Maggiore in Spello. The decoration was commissioned by the Prior Troilo Baglioni. The company was the last important commission of the Pinturicchio in Umbria, before leaving for Rome and Siena.

Self-portrait

These frescoes bear the signature Bernardius Pictoricius Perusinus and represent on the walls: the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Magi, Jesus among the doctors, in the sails instead the four Sibyls and a self-portrait.
The Piccolomini bookshop in Siena, built in 1502, is considered his absolute masterpiece: powerful chromaticism, taste of detail, great attention to the decorative aspect, characterize the intervention of Pinturicchio in the library built in 1495 by Cardinal Todeschini Piccolomini in honor of Enea Silvio Piccolomini.
The last documented work of the artist is the Madonna in Gloria among the Saints Gregory the Great and Benedict, for the Olivetans of the church of Santa Maria di Barbiano near San Giminiano.
It was Vasari, thanks to an anecdote, who recounted his last years: the painter had found accommodation at the Friars of San Francesco in Siena and asked insistently to remove from his cell a trunk, but during the move this broke, revealing its treasure: five hundred ducats of gold, which belonged to the friars, filling the painter with sadness until he died.[2]
The artist died on 11 December 1513 in Siena. He rested in the parish of SS. Vincenzo and Anastasio.

 


[1] Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architetti, a cura di G. Milanesi, III, Firenze 1878, pp. 493-531.
[2] Giorgio Vasari, Vite de’più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architetti, edizione commentata del 1878, vol. III, pag. 503-505.

An engineering masterpiece and monument-landmark of a civilisation which has been studied as much as it is mysterious: the Etruscan Well is an architectural wonder and live testament to the population which founded Perugia, as well as museum site known worldwide.

Etruscan Well

At no. 18 of the central Piazza Danti, a short walk from Piazza IV Novembre, the elegant open-air living room in town, well known due to the magnificent Fontana Maggiore, with Palazzo dei Priori and the cathedral of San Lorenzo around it there is an impressive structure dug into the underground rooms of Palazzo Sorbello, a stately home and headquarters of the Ranieri di Sorbello Foundation, a cultural association dedicated to the memory of Uguccione V Ranieri di Sorbello, a cosmopolitan intellectual, war hero, journalist and local history scholar. Following an intuition by Uguccione, around 1960, the first surveys were conducted on what he considered family property, to be studied and preserved; they confirmed that it was built by the Etruscans, something that had been forgotten despite continuing use by the local population over the centuries.
In the reception room, an introductory video constitutes the actual admission ticket to the wonders of Etruscan hydraulic engineering, presented using a basic approach, adding nothing to this spectacular natural site: the Etruscan Well is a millenary colossus, dating to the second half of the 3rd century B. C. which reaches underground as far down as 37 metres below road level. The well is still working today (even though it is no longer used as a source of drinking water), having been fed by the same three underground springs for more than two thousand years.

The well belongs to a class of engineering works spread everywhere, with the same purpose, although not always with the same shapes that, in the specific case of this structure, take on considerable dimensions: from the various speleological surveys carried out over the years it has been ascertained have a total size of 424 m3 reaching up to 424,000 liters of water.
The structure consists of a cylindrical barrel whose largest point is reached at the level of the water collection tank, where it is 5.60 metres wide and 12 m tall. The upper section of this room is definitely one of the highlights of the visit: the structure here is covered by large travertine slabs extracted from the quarries in Ellera (8 km from Perugia), a construction material which was also used to build the monumental walls around the town.
Also the top cladding of the well, supported by large slabs placed transversally and surrounded by stone beams which are stuck together without using any mortar or lime and forming two trusses weighing 8 metric tons each, is made of travertine. This homogeneity of materials and construction techniques found between the well and the Etruscan walls of Perugia, has made it possible to hypothesize that this was carried out from the beginning as a public work.

 

 

The presence of grooves detected on the surface of the travertine blocks of the upper cover has left us to suppose that for the collection of the water a rather simple system had to be used initially such as the use of buckets tied to a rope. A central pulley system would have been adopted only later, with the realization of the curb that still indicates the well at street level. In 1768, an iron lattice was made to close the mouth of the curb, on which two noble coats of arms were placed, still in iron, relating to two of the noble families who owned Palazzo Sorbello: the Eugeni counts and the Bourbon di Sorbello marquises.
The Ranieri di Sorbello Foundation has been managing the Etruscan Well since July 2016 and – during this period – it has completed an important mission aimed at enhancing the tourism experience for the visitor by means of a restoration and upgrading project with a view to enhancing the narration and use of the facility, also thanks to a fruitful collaboration with other museums in town dedicated to Etruscan archaeology, for example the Museo del Capitolo in Perugia, a starting point for the discovery of Underground Perugia: a journey that leads us inside the architectural stratifications of the acropolis of ancient Perusna (the ancient name of Perugia).

 

Palazzo Sorbello

 

The history of Perugia has deep roots, as does the Etruscan well: an incredibly unique monument which reminds us of a distant age, still allowing us to soak in its atmosphere.

 


For information about opening days and hours, please refer to: www.pozzoetrusco.it
The Wikipedia page on the Etruscan Well has been updated: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pozzo_etrusco

«So in the form of a white rose that was shown the holy militia (…) in the great flower came down that is adorned with so many leaves, and then went back where his love always updates». (Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy, Paradise, Canto XXXI, vv. 1- 2 e 10-12)

The rosewindows, real embroideries of stone placed on the facades of the churches, through their decorations filter the divine light, becoming colored beams that illuminate the aisles. The rose window is a spoke wheel that symbolizes, according to Christian tradition, the dominion of Christ on earth. It is present on the axis of the main nave, sometimes also of the secondary ones or in correspondence of chapels or cross arms. The circular shape and the chromatic range allowed the glass masters to create works of sacred art depicting, in the form of an icon, the most significant passages of the Gospel. The rose window represents the wheel of Fortune: Dante himself defines it as an angelic Intelligence that is based in Empiricism and operates among men through a divine plan. The rosette «clearly explains the cyclical nature of human fortune and confines human time to the immeasurable nature of God’s time».[1]

 

Basilica of San Benedetto

 

Its name, used since the Seventeenth century, is an accretive of the Latin term rosa, which suggests its similarity to the structure of the flower. The rose, whose freshness and beauty suggests an ethereal symbol, also recalls the chalice of Christ.[2]
In the Divine Comedy, in the XXXI canto of Paradise, Dante evokes the celestial rose that gathers in paradise the circle of the blessed admitted to contemplate God. The rose window is closely related to the circle, a symbol of perfection and therefore of God, but at the same time it is also the symbol of the labyrinth, which is created by the many plant motifs present within. The labyrinth recalls the inner search and the initiatory journey. It thus represents a link between the human and the divine worlds.

Church of San Francesco in Norcia

A tour in Valnerina

Umbria, a land of deep mysticism and spirituality, conceals in its territory the footsteps of the saints who changed the face of Christianity. It was in the green hills and highlands of Norcia that found the faith San Benedetto.
In the historic center of the city, stands the Basilica of San Benedetto, built at the birthplace of the saint and then enlarged in the Thirteenth century.
The facade, with a gabled profile, has at the bottom a splayed portal and is enriched at the top by a rose window, decorated with acanthus leaves and accompanied by the symbols of the four evangelists. Unfortunately the church was deeply damaged during the earthquake of 2016, but you can easily guess its ancient splendor.
Of great artistic and architectural interest is the church of San Francesco in Norcia, built entirely in white stone and completed by the Conventual Franciscans.
Valuable is the large rose window that dominates the façade: a frame made with rosettes and round arches, like a real embroidery, pierces the hard stone, revealing its deep meaning through the void of matter but full instead of the divine light.
A few kilometres from the homeland of San Benedetto, in Preci, stands the Hermitage of Sant’ Eutizio. The oldest part of the abbey dates back to the Ninth century and it was completed at the behest of Abbot Tendini I in 1190. The abbey bewitches the viewer as it is entirely built on a terrace between the cliff and the valley below. The rose window, a true jewel of sculpture, prevails over the structure of the church. It is a large circle surrounded by the symbols of the evangelists, typical of Romanesque architecture, but also bears fragments of early medieval sculpture.[3]

Hermitage of Sant’Eutizio

Not far from Norcia another magnificent rose window dominates the facade of the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Vallo di Nera. The church dates back to 1176 and has a façade with stone conce typically Romanesque. It is distinguished by a Gothic portal with an ogive decorated with capitals and friezes and in the upper part a rose window punctuated by twelve columns perfectly in line, which seems to be reabsorbed in the wall.
City deeply linked to spirituality, but also to the symbol of the rose window and therefore to the rose itself: Cascia is a religious center linked to the figure of Saint Rita. In this village stands the church of San Francesco, where the Blessed Franciscan Peace was buried in 1270. A prominent element of the façade, made by Comacini masters, is the refined rose window, very particular because it is given by ingranaggio of the two opposing wheels that create a dynamic effect of rotation. It is composed of eighteen columns with capitals and eighteen trilobed arches, which converge towards the center where there is a Madonna with Child. All around acanthus leaves recall classic motifs. The delicacy of the inlay making this rose window is a true masterpiece of the regional sculptural art. The Umbrian Apennines are the silent guardian of the traces of saints and pilgrims, founders of hermitages inspired by the rules of poverty, solitude and simplicity.
A legend says that Saint Mauro, his son Felice and their nurse passed through Sant’Anatolia di Narco. The population asked Mauro for help to be freed from a dragon that infested those places. Saint Mauro, thanks to divine help, faced and killed the dragon. The episode of the liberation is depicted in the frieze of the façade. In it there is also the rose window, among the most interesting examples of Umbrian Romanesque sculpture, with two rows of columns, inscribed in a square with the apocalyptic symbols.

 

Church of San Francesco

The symbology of the facade is exemplary: the rose window represents Christ, who brings light to the world, identified with the Church, through the voice of the four evangelists who allowed the knowledge.[4]
Finally, one of rose window most particular is that in the church of San Salvatore in Campi di Norcia. The tragic earthquake events of 2016 led to the collapse of much of the building and the destruction of the bell tower dating back to the sixteenth century. The remaining walls have been consolidated to secure the portions of frescoes that will be reinstated in the recovered parts.

 

Church of San Salvatore in Campi di Norcia.

 

The church, nestled in the Umbrian hills, is a rare example with two naves, with two doors and two rose windows, moreover not aligned with the line of the roof. Particularly interesting is the large outer ring of the rose window, carved with acanthus branches arranged in a sinuous spiral rotation. Basilicas, abbeys and small churches, surrounded by green Umbrian typical valleys, magical and mystical places at the same time, but also essential guides that help the visitor, spectator or hermit to grasp the purest and deepest part of Umbria. These and many other places give back precious jewels of a past time. Unfortunately many of them were deeply affected by the earthquake of a few years ago, but very often art and beauty conquer the silence that descends on the rubble, bringing these places back to their ancient beauty.

 


[1] Claudio Lanzi, Sedes Sapientiae The symbolic universe of cathedrals, Simmetria edizioni, Roma, 2009, pag. 162.
[2] M. Feuillet, Lexicon of Christian symbols, Edizioni Arkeios, Roma, 2006, p. 97-98.
[3] L. Zazzerini, Umbria Eremitica. Ubi silentium sit Deus, Edizioni LuoghInteriori, Città di Castello, 2019, pp. 124-131.
[4] L. Zazzerini, Umbria Eremitica. Ubi silentium sit Deus, Edizioni LuoghInteriori, Città di Castello, 2019, p. 109.

«Homo bulla est» (Erasmo da Rotterdam)

The motto of Erasmus of Rotterdam inspired by a sentence from Varrone, gave rise to the iconography of Homo bulla, widespread in the first half of the sixteenth century. The protagonists are puttos intent on blowing soap bubbles, unaware of being condemned a little more than the iridescent spheres produced in their game. The representations of Homo bulla are fully part of the category of Vanitas, didactic images in which the reference to fragility or evanescence, through elements such as cut flowers, crystals and soap bubbles, recalling the inevitability of death and the frailty of the earthly things. The Allegory of Jan Brueghel the Younger is very rich in this sense, in which many objects are depicted in the ephemeral joys of the senses.

 

Gunter Zint, Il ragazzo che vive nei pressi del muro, 1963.

The art of soap bubbles

The National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia, until 9 June 2019, faces this issue for the first time, traditionally related to the artistic genre of still life and vanitas. The exhibition, entitled Soap Bubbles. Forms of utopia between vanitas, art and science, curated by Michele Emmer, professor of Mathematics at the Sapienza University of Rome and Marco Pierini, director of the National Gallery of Umbria. The inspiration for the exhibition comes from a text by Michele Emmer, in which the interrelations with mathematics, painting, physics and architecture are explored.
«It’s a project that Emmer and I had in mind for a long time», says director Marco Pierini. «It was a great dream. A dream with many faces», adds Emmer. «It is difficult to find a “game” that has remained unchanged for hundreds of years, like soap bubbles». In fact, the exhibition presents itself as an interdisciplinary initiative that, parallel to the historical and artistic path, also tells of the birth of the scientific, physical and mathematical interest in perfect soap bubble models. Starting from a book by Isaac Newton, from the Oliveriana Library of Pesaro, in which the English physicist describes in detail the phenomena that are observed on the surfaces of the soap suds, to arrive at the current experiments through the aid of computer graphics. In fact, the review highlights the importance that bubbles have played in all contemporary science, and how these latest discoveries, in turn, continue to inspire contemporary artists and architects in their creations.

Gino Boccasile, manifesto Achille Banfi, 1937, Treviso, Museo nazionale Collezione Salce

The exhibition itinerary

The itinerary consists of around sixty works, loaned by the most important national and international institutions: the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Accademia Galleries in Venice, the National Gallery in London, the National Gallery in Washington and the Museum of Hermitage of St. Petersburg.

 

Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin, La Lavandaia, 1730-1740, Museo dell’Ermitage, San Pietroburgo

 

The masterpieces cover a long period of time ranging from the sixteenth century with Hendrick Goltzius, passing through the seventeenth century, in which the puttos becomes more and more a contemporary child. You will have to wait for the eighteenth century to meet real genre scenes, in which the allegorical aspect almost tends to disappear, as in the young man portrayed by Fra Galgario. The presence of the bubble in nineteenth-century painting is not thinning out, important in historical Romanticism with Pelagio Palagi, then increasingly at the center of scenes of daily life or portraits; in fact Bubbles by John Everett Millais is famous, when the bubbles became the image of Pears soaps.In the twentieth century this theme is declined in an original way, opening up a new perspective: in 1964 Günter Zint decides to document in West Berlin the life of a child who, among the games of childhood, becomes a witness unaware of the dramas of history. Not even the first decades of the current century have managed to escape from soap bubbles, which become a true model for light architectures, such as the Watercube in Beijing.Symbol of the fragility and transience of human ambitions, soap bubbles have fascinated not only the generations of artists who were amazed by those plays of color that move on surfaces, for their luster and lightness, but continue to fascinate the visitors who walk through the blue halls of the National Gallery of Umbria.

 

Charles Amedée Philippe Van Loo, Soap Bubbles, 1764, National Gallery Washington

The title of this article, is also the name of the project presented to the press at the Rocca Albornoziana in Spoleto. It is emblematic of the spirit o f the project itself and of the objectives that it intends to pursue.

La Rocca is the symbol of Spoleto, a city that is a chest containing distinguished treasures, not only within and outside its walls, but also beyond the fortress itself, which has stood for centuries as a its suggestive sentinel. Behind the fortress, commissioned by Pope Innocent VI and built under the guidance of Cardinal Egidio Albornoz,there is what is called the Spoleto Mountain. The ridge extends for about 7000 hectares between the Flaminia state road and the Nera Valley. It contains many natural, historical and religious treasures, which can be experienced through suggestive paths that are worth to be known and appreciated.

Dalla Rocca alla Roccia aims of enhancing, promoting and redeveloping the strong bond between Spoleto and its mountain by proposing routes that from the “Rocca” – heart of the whole project – wind both towards the city center and towards itineraries in the heart of the mountain.

The project, winner of public tender: “Por Fesr 2014-2020 Cultural and Creative enterprises”, will be realized by the Icaro Network, composed of three Umbrian companies of excellence: Hyla Nature Experience (project leader), an association through which experiential initiatives are organized in contact with nature; Int.Geo.Mod. Srl, former spin-off of the University of Perugia, which deals with research and development in the field of  local marketing and by the Link 3C Cooperative Company which has developed the Umbrex Circuit, an innovative platform which facilitates traders in buying and selling, and offers the chance of using commercial credits for the payments.

 

New technologies to support the tourism

Dalla Rocca alla Roccia has been recognized an innovative idea because it offers an integrated solution of new technologies to support tourism and provides a complete answer to the different needs of the potential tourist. Innovative supports have been identified, in order to promote sustainable tourism and improve the accessibility for disabled people. Moreover, the project includes the creation of immersive experiences for tourists, thanks to green paths and light mobility networks. Dedicated packages for families and schools will be available, so as specific tools designed to communicate the beauties of the territory to children, thematic events about the environment and the local history, scientific conferences and enogastronomic itineraries.

The multimedia center and the innovative app

The Rocca of Spoleto will become a multimedia center where, through totem touchscreen, it will be possible to have multilingual information about the main sites of interest in the area. The Rocca will be the centre where renting special laptops which will accompany the tourist through the path choosen. The App of virtual reality, through a highly innovative technology, will automatically activate near the sites of interest identified by the project, and will provide information, photos and videos.

 

Rocca Albornoziana di Spoleto, photo by Enrico Mezzasoma

Tourist packages and commercial credit circuits

Specialized excursionist guides will guide the visitors to the discovery of the Spoleto’s mountain paths. We are talking about: the “Greenway del Nera”, the “Fontanili of Monte Fionchi”, “Monteluco” and the hiking network of the environmental areas of the Spoleto Municipality. These itineraries will be included in real tour packages through an activity involving the receptive structures of the territory. Furthermore, they will be proposed in the complementary regional market of the Circuit Umbrex and in the commercial credit circuits of other eleven Italian regions, through the internet portal www.viaggiareincrediti.it.

The Laboratory of Earth Sciences

Another remarkable element of the project will be the Laboratory of Earth Sciences: a special classroom with panoramic projections for providing an immersive educational space thanks to video mapping techniques. Here there will be a bookshop too, for the sale of books / guides about the territory and gadgets inspired by the branding of the project.

Additional services

The project will be promoted through the Internet website www.dallaroccaallaroccia.it – currently under construction. It will provide updated information, the chance of online booking of the services offered, links with the accommodation facilities of the territory. The access to a virtual newsstand in which the digital editorial material on Spoleto and its highlights will be collected.

The love for a craft work which turns into art: this is the story of a boy who has preserved an important heritage, guided by his grandmother.

Photo by Claudia Ioan

 

The meeting is at the Retificio Mancinelli, in San Feliciano (Magione). To frame the garden there are the plastic circles of the larger nets, bundled on one side to indicate the industriousness of that villa on the lake, apparently quiet.
Andrea Mancinelli and his grandmother welcome us in the large and bright work room. The morning sun cuts it obliquely like a perfect diamond. On one side, stacked wooden chairs rise face to face with a particular hanger, which instead of cloche, shows some nets.

 

Andrea Mancinelli and grandmother, photo by Claudia Ioan

A room lost in the past

In a room with many windows, Andrea and his grandmother sew the nets. The Retificio Mancinelli could be reduced to this luminous box, where the boy learns an ancient trade and gives it new life. Andrea is guided by a person who is really well known in this area. It does not seem so out of place that table, dangerously similar to the teaching post, sandwiched between boxes filled with nets and covered with sinkers and needles.
A room that seems lost in the past, with the cotton models of the nets and the photo of the late patriarch to keep under control every element of a craft work that has its roots in the daily life of the Trasimeno fishermen.

 

Photo by Claudia Ioan

 

To complete the scene, a sort of wooden stool placed above a cabinet – which I will later discover to be a support for the large nylon traps – and some pulleys hanging from the ceiling, to which Andrea immediately hangs a tofo.
While the photographers are unleashed, I observe the technical perfection of this creation, with its deceptions that trap the fishes. Andrea, meanwhile, gives us a practical demonstration of how the net is attached to the circles, counting the points one by one: every four points, he stops and makes a knot. This is suggests a rather repetitive work, which  demands an extreme attention. What he calls the needle, is actually achecella, a sort of comb with only two teeth that Andrea uses smoothly and careful as if he were combing the hair of his beloved.

 

Photo by Claudia Ioan

Since 1955

According to his grandmother, Andrea still has much to learn. I try to understand if she is proud of her nephew, and of how he has decided to preserve a craft work to which she has dedicated her life. Instead of answering me, she starts talking about herself.
Since 1955 this was her work, but for a year now it has been taking a break because of her health conditions. She has worked a lot and with passion, but now she feels that her energy is fading.
The worry for the health, as well as the difficulty of resigning herself to the inevitability of this situation, make her voice crack – but I do not need to tell her that she is a warrior and that we all would want to have a grandmother like her.

 

Photo by Claudia Ioan

Accuracy and experience

From the demonstration by Andrea we understand that this type of work is extremely complex: it requires precision and experience, as well as an extremely high attention. Andrea deploys a trammel spreading it between the hanger and the window to the east: the nylon, initially a very light blue, seems almost to disappear, suspended between the dust and the late morning sun.

 

Photo by Massimiliano Tuveri

 

Now I understand why the room is so bright. It should not be easy, moreover, to remember the innumerable patterns of the equally innumerable types of the nets. Then some worn out notes appear, stored in the drawers of the teaching post: schemes, numbers, updates. All you need to build a perfect net is written there, on unfolded accounting sheets and notebooks, a humble looking heritage that is worth more than a rare treasure.
It is this knowledge that allows the construction of complicated trammel nets and similar hare hunting nets, or those used at the sea, for the sport, for the shop windows, for the restaurants and for children’s games. Those nets that generations and generations of fishermen have used as their work tools on the Trasimeno Lake, whose pastel green stands out discreetly at the end of the road.

 

Photo by Massimiliano Tuveri

 


Retificio Mancinelli

“The town looks solemn and powerful, with its doors, the main road and the church of San Francesco” (M. Tabarrini)

Monteleone di Spoleto, photo by Claudia Ioan

 

Set on a hill along the Corno river valley, Monteleone di Spoleto is among the most fascinating and characteristic villages of Valnerina. Over the centuries, thanks to its position, it gained the appellation of Lions of the Appennines. Its territory is part of one the most typical and uncontaminated environment of the central Apennines.
The city is like a small casket which has been keeping precious objects of history, art and architecture for centuries: in fact, Monteleone boasts very ancient origins, as evidenced by the numerous tombs found in the surroundings. About the ancient wars and battled fighted in the area, numerous testimonies remain. Among them, the famous chariot of the sixth century BC stands. It was found here in the early twentieth century. Inside the local Church of San Francesco is preserved a splendid copy, while the original one is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The town, since ancient times, appears solemn to the visitor in all its majesty; witness of its ancient vestiges, Monteleone shows off all the pride of its history to the traveler. The city, in fact, isolated among the bleak mountains of the Apennines, is rich in symbols and meanings. Such as the repetition of certain numbers: three are the city walls and, each of them, is provided with three doors, moreover, there are six towers and eight ramparts in the city. The castle, surrounded by solid walls, watchtowers and gates, preserves the typical medieval and renaissance appearence, with its houses, churches and noble buildings that overlook alleys and squares. Characteristic element of the whole country is the local white and red rock, which makes the architecture unique, able to recall the magical two-color of the ancient orders of chivalry. The territory has four residential areas (Ruscio, Rescia, Trivio and Butino), whose main activities were agriculture and sheep – farming. But the area was known due to the industrial activities too; such as the Ruscio lignite mines and the iron mines. From these mines according to the tradition, was exctracted the raw materials for the Pantheon gates in Rome.

 

The spelled, photo by Claudia Ioan

Excellence in Monteleone di Spoleto

To make Monteleone di Spoleto an even more wonderful town is the amber color that distinguishes its land: the spelled of Monteleone is among the excellences of Italy. Thanks to the efforts of local producers, it was possible to request and obtain the DOP brand (Protected Designation of Origin).

 

Monteleone di Spoleto, photo by Claudia Ioan

Church of San Francesco

Crossing the town’s walls, it is possible to discover, through pleasant alleys, important historical and artistic treasures.  The Church of San Francesco, built between the 14th and 15th centuries, is one of them. The church is the most remarkable and suggestive monument in Monteleone, because it has been witness of the most significative historical periods of the town.
Originally, the church was dedicated to Saint Maria or better Madonna dell’Assunta, but it has been always commonly known with the name of the poor of Assisi, since the early Franciscans settled there around 1280. The Franciscan order in Monteleone always used the Church for their functions and in every official act, a seal bearing the image of the Assumption abducted in heaven with the initials S (Which stands for Sanctae) and M (which stands for Mariae). Various frescoes decorate the church walls with devotional images probably painted by artists of the the Fourtheen Century Umbrian School

Church of St. Nicholas

The church is located at the highest point of the historical center; It dates back to the early Middle Ages, in fact the first documents date from 1310. It has a single nave with ten chapels with its own altars. The ceiling is coffered and covered with a tempera painted canvas with floral motifs. Among the several works of considerable value, we mention the decollation of St. John the Baptist between St. Anthony from Padova, St. Isidore and La Maddalena, attributed to the painter Giuseppe Ghezzi and the Annunciation, probably a work by Agostino Masucci.

Church of Santa Caterina

In 1310 five Augustinian nuns, coming from the Monastery of St. Catherine in Norcia, asked for a small church and a house in the lower part of Monteleone in order to build a monastery there. Both the house and the church were outside the circle of walls, and they had been built in 1265. The nuns remained there for almost five years. Of the eighteenth-century church, only the perimeter walls remain.

 

Church of Santa Caterina, photo by Enrico Mezzasoma

Church of Santa Maria de Equo

The interior of the church is typical of rural churches: in the center of the church there is an eighteenth-century altar, adorned with a wooden statue of the Madonna with Child; on the sides, inside two niches, there are the wooden statues of St. Peter and St. Paul. Along the left wall is the venerable Gilberto or Liberto, a hermit who lived here for many years.

 


Bibliography: L’Umbria si racconta. Dizionario E-O, Foligno 1982 di Mario Tabarrini.

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