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The Duomo of Orvieto

Discovering Umbria

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The origins of the construction of the Duomoá
The tradition indicates the construction of the Duomo was the answer of the bishop of Orvieto, Francesco da Bagnoregio, to the emotional wave that involved the population after the miraculous event of Bolsena. A Bohemian priest, possessed by strong doubts around the transubstantiation, or better the dogma according to which during the consecration of the Eucharist, happens the conversion of the bread and the wine into the flesh and in the blood of Jesus Christ, was found near the grave of Santa Cristina at Bolsena. Such position was very diffused in that time, brought ahead by the heretical sect of the Patarinis, which denied the value of the sacrament of the Eucharist. During the celebration he saw some blood dripping from the wafer and to fall on the corporal and on the flexes for the liturgy. He immediately informed pope Urbano IV who was in Orvieto, and who wanted to notice what happened. The bloody flax was brought to Orvieto and submitted to the popular devotion. According to a story now consolidated and handed down, the bishop decreed the beginning of the construction of the Duomo, a place of the ever seen beauty devoted to welcome the miraculous flax.

The construction
The actual Duomo rises in the space previously occupied from the cathedral of Santa Maria del Vescovado, already in the XII century under conditions of uneasiness and in contrast with the demands of a vivacious city and from the laughing economic luxuriance. The first stone was set by pope Nicol˛ IV in 1290.

The initial project is very probably work of FrÓ Bevignate, Umbrian artist who also took care of the direction of its beginning from 1295. The work will be extended up to halves Four hundred when with Antonio Federighi the fašade is finished. Finished but not ended, since the works of the ornament will continue up to the beginning of Six hundred.

Initially the construction was planned on the definite bases of the Umbrian Romanesque, while the following intervention of the architect Lorenzo Maitani, present at the building from 1310 to 1330, he decidedly determined its development in Gothic sense.

The fašade of the Cathedral
The two styles, the Romanesque and the Gothic, melt together to wonder in the superb fašade, where the development to height seems limited by the evident line of crowning, the plain surfaces, the chromatic and pictorial effect they prevail on almost total lack of plastic and aggregating elements. The vertical lines are a constant contrapuntal from the horizontal lines. The whole fašade rotates around the quadrilateral inside which is found the rose window, circumscribed by a series of niches.

The whole appears as an elegant structure in constant equilibrium of spaces and geometry, from the ample curve portal to the equilateral triangles of the eardrums, where every element finds its really meaning in the composure and in the harmony of the whole.

The ample exploitation of the pictorial decorations and the mosaics, its composition, makes the fašade of the Duomo of Orvieto a monumental and precious fourteenth-century tryptych, whose wealth stays an unique example in Umbria. Its variety of styles and solutions, lent to represent the vivacity of influences and affairs that, supported by an original creative imagination, they represent the expression better than the Umbrian art of 1300.

Luca Signorelli and the Chapel of San Brizio
The Chapel of San Brizio or Cappella Nova, was subsequently built, in the space that opened thanks to the realisation of arcs and buttresses of the Maitani. In 1444 the Chapel was already finished. After various attempts of accord with the Perugino, among the most capable painters of the epoch Beato Angelico was chosen, but shortly after the beginning, the work brusquely interrupted for half century. In 1500 Luca Signorelli was called to finish the cycle of frescos of the chapel, who will deliver to the history of art one among the most celebrated masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance, interpreted entirely in a personal key. Between 1500 and 1502 the Signorelli completed the work just begun from Beato Angelico tracing the themes and the style of his predecessor, adorning the walls with marvellous frescos representing '' the antichrist's Histories '', the '' Universal Judgement '', the '' Resurrection of the Corpses '', the '' Damned '', the '' 'Hell '' and the '' Heaven '', the '' Blessed ''. The narrated histories are drawn by the most disparate among the sources and interpreted with extreme imagination and autonomy. The human figure often appears naked dramatic and intense, in a tension never reached before. The grandiose frescos transformed themselves into a real human scene, where thanks to the punctual development of the dramatic effect of the bodily dynamism or to the virtuous anatomical expressions, the figures seem not to worry too much to communicate a religious or moral content. An exception is represented by the '' the antichrist's Histories '', where a more detailed construction of the environment seems to allude to a precise historical event, the preaching of Savonarola, in that heretical period. To the scene assist imperturbable two figures dressed of dark colour, representing the Beato Angelico and the same Signorelli.

Entirely deprived of set is the fresco of the damned, where the dominant element is the representation of the naked body, represented in an intense emotional tangle, reassumed of all the conquests acquired by the painting and by the sculpture of 1400. The esthetical concept substantially allude already to the classicism. Great attention is reserved to every small anatomical detail, evident in the athletic masculine bodies and in the roundish female forms.

The Chapel of the Corporal
Going out of the Chapel of San Brizio forehead is found the chapel where the ancient relic is guarded, the Sacred Linen soaked with blood and protagonist of the miracle of Bolsena. The cloth is contained within a shrine a marvellous goldsmith's work, which form recalls the same fašade of the Duomo. It was realised on commission of the bishop Beltramo Monaldeschi in 1337 from Ugolino di Vieri, in gold, silver and enamelled painted plates.
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