Sunday, December 6, 2015

The most beautiful Gothic facade in Umbria

The facade of Santa Maria Assunta,  otherwise known as il Duomo di Orvieto,  has a magnetic attraction, pulling our sight upward, in swirls around the pillars,  the statues and the ubiquitous blue and golden tiles, into a central vortex,  or "rose", and in its center is a bust depicting God the Father. 

The "Rose" is at the top center of the Façade of il Duomo di Orvieto
The "rose" has petals of stained-glass windows, outlined between columns with Salomonic swirls,  and framed in a square with four Fathers of the Church (Saints Jerome,  Augustin, Gregory the Great and Ambrose) depicted in mosaics in each corner of the frame.

The 12 apostles form a row of full-body sculptures at the top of the Façade.
Enhancing the perimeter of the frame, are 52 marble busts of saints, while one each side there are three pairs of full-body sculptures of the most outstanding personalities of the Old Testament,  and on top of the frame a series of twelve full-body sculptures of the apostles.
God the Father creates Eve, using the rib of Adam

The façade is supported by four major columns,  each one decorated with marble friezes, depicting major events in the Bible.

The Archangel blands his fiery sword as Adam and Eve leave Paradise.
The first column on the left displays the major events of God's Creation as related in the Book of Genesis.
Cain slays Abel, the world's first fratricide.

The fourth or final column on the right corner shows the Last Judgment,  as revealed in the Book of the Apocalypse.
The crowds full of despair are condemned to Eternal Damnation. 

To view the façade, and specifically the columns of the Cathedral, is like reading a book,  from left to right,  and from top to bottom. Over the centuries,  the façade of a Basilica,  a Church or a Cathedral was increasingly used as a means of communication,  of evangelization,  in a period when illiteracy was more the rule than the exception. Before the invention of the printing press, architecture, sculpture, painting, song and plays were the more common means of communication of messages to the masses. Bonum facendum, malum vitandum ("Do good, avoid evil!") was the message, and the message was not subtle.

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into Heaven is the topic of the above Mosaic
The façade of Il Duomo di Orvieto has major mosaics: three above the doors, three in the middle level alongside the "rose", and three at the top level. At the bottom level, from left to right, we have the Baptism of Christ, then above the main door the glorious Assumption of Mary into Heaven, and over the right door, the Birth of Mary. The predominate position of the mosaic of the Assumption is due to the fact that this Cathedral is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, that is, to Holy Mary Assumed into Heaven. For those not familiar with Catholic Faith and Doctrine, it is believed that Christ, died on the Cross, rose on the third day, the Resurrection, and after forty days, ascended into heaven, on Ascension Thursday. On the other hand, His Mother, Mary, born Immaculate, without the stain of original sin, did not die, but fell into a dormition or a deep sleep, and was assumed into Heaven, on the Assumption. 

Above the Assumption Mosaic, we can find an arched passageway, hallmark of Gothic architecture. The purpose of those arched passageways during the late medieval and renaissance periods was to act as a platform or stage for religious plays, particularly, Nativity plays and Passion plays.

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