Saturday, April 29, 2017

Asti, Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, the Piedmont-Gothic Cathedral

Sometimes, only after I write a post or article that attempts to describe a Cathedral, a Church, a Convent or a Monastery, do I realize what a poor job I have done. As I went over this article that I wrote a few days ago, I came to the conclusion that you, our readers and followers, deserve a post that will motivate you  tostart a pilgrimage, and visit this church, or one similar to it.
Cattedrale di Santa Maria
Assunta, consecrated by
Pope Urban II, in 1095
 on his return from France
 where he preached the
 First Crusade

I do have a small consolation: most of my fellow writers also do a very poor job of conveying to the reader, the beauty of a Church. However, this consolation is not very consoling.

As we see it today, Santa Maria Assunta is good
 example of Piedmont Gothic, built in the early
XIVth Century. Originally it was Romanesque
in style.
One of the great mistakes I usually make is to categorize a church by its architectural style. I do not know who started this nonsense, but it only goes to show how ignorant we writers are, both historically as well as architecturally.
The sides of the Cathedral are reinforced by
buttresses with tall narrow windows, and
polychrome bands created by the contrast of red
bricks and sandstone walls.
La Cattedrale di Maria Assunta di Asti is a good example. When I started to write the "post", I hurriedly put "the Piedmont-Gothic Cathedral" in the title.

The Portico dei Pelletti is the
main entrance on the south side,
built during the 2nd half of the
XVth Century.The Pelletti were 
a family of the nobility of Asti.

I am not going to change the title of this post: that is not the point. However, I do want to make something clear to my kind readers.  The Cathedral of Asti has been under construction for centuries, specifically since the XIV century. The bell tower is Romanesque. The façade is Piedmont Gothic. The interior decoration is baroque. Do I make my point or shall I go on?
Marble statues of Saints Jerome,
Peter, Paul and Blaise overlook
 the entrance at the
Portico dei Pelletti.

Going on a pilgrimage should not be like going out to the country with a net to catch butterflies so that afterwards we can organize the desiccated remains neatly in our walnut and glass display case back home, taking more care to properly classify them by their correct species, rather than to enjoy their beauty.

The Campanile or Bell Tower
was erected in 1266, and is the
 only element of the exterior of
the Cathedral that still conserves
the original Romanesque style.

We are more intent at classifying reality, than understanding it. We give terms to things beyond our comprehension. We make constant reference to a series of concepts, usually words that finish with an "ism", instead of  reflecting on their meaning.

The greatest accomplishment of this Cathedral is the result of centuries of the devotion of the people of Asti to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and the art here contained, portrays that fervor, layer upon layer, generation after generation.

On the north side of the Cattedrale is the Chapel
of Saint Stephen.

The vaults were painted during
the 17th Century with Baroque

This chapel is dedicated to the
wedding of the Virgin Mary with
Saint Joseph.

The apse of the Cathedral is
narrow in comparison with the
size of the rest of the church. 

The narrowness of the Cathedral
is a result that the architects of
when they enlarged the structure
they tried to respect the original
dimension of the apse, which
tends to make the main altar look
darker than the rest of the
Two organs on both sides of the
main altar were added during the
18th century.
Gilded bronze statue of the
Assumption of Our Blessed

The octagonal shaped dome of the Cathedral is
very elevated, but does not offer sufficient light
to appreciate the beautiful paintings.

Chapel of the Holy Sacrament,
 was decorated with a baroque
altarpiece, and glorifies the
royal lineage of the Blessed
Virgin Mary, while paying
 homage to Saint Philip Neri.

This angle gives up a better
 perspective of the ceiling of
the side chapel devote to the
Blessed Sacrament, a fine
example of Baroque art in
the Piedmont region.

At the beginning of the
XVIIIth Century, the Cattedrale
underwent a profound interior
decoration with Baroque
paintings on the vaults.

The Niche of the Lamentations over Christ, an
ensemble of terracotta statues from he early1500's 
commemorating the sorrow of the Blessed Virgin
and of Saint John at the burial of Jesus Christ,
after His Passion and Death on the Cross.

Baptismal Font (!468) originally
 intended for the Church of
Saint John of Asti, but later
was brought over to the chapel
 of Saint Stephen at the Cattedrale.

In 1322, one of the original naves of this
 Cathedral collapsed, a frequent occurrence
during the middle ages, as prelates and their
architects attempted to make the places of
worship more spacious. This incident
provoked a complete overhaul of the
structure as well as the style of the church.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Pollenzo, Medieval Gem of the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato

Pollenzo, ancient Castrum and Insula of Roman times, Medieval Church and Castle, well preserved for posterity, secret laboratory of Gastronomical inventions and vault with the richest wines of the valleys of the Langhe, the Roero and the Monferrato.

The Church of San Vito, built in 1842 in
Neo-Piedmont Gothic style 
Sometimes understanding geography is difficult, more so in a foreign country. Even with a  GPS. If you look at a map, you see the streets, the neighborhoods, the zip or postal codes,  the town or city or city you are in, the county, the country and the continents.

However, when you are in a wine region, some locations are more difficult to find, more evasive. In the case of hand, some of the DOCG  (Determinazione di Origine Controlata e Garantita) are easy to find, such as Asti, Barolo and Barbaresco, because each one of them is a town, while others are more vague, such as in the case of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato. This is not because people in the wine business are in hiding, but because what determines a DOCG isn't an address, but where one type of grapes grow, or where a field or vineyard ends, because a creek passes by.

On the left flank of San Vito Church is the
 Cookery School and the Corte Albertina Hotel.

The last day we were at Alba, while we were having a delicious "colazione" or breakfast, with fruit, juices, ham, cheeses and bread, I was looking at the back wall of the dining room, decorated with a beautiful wall-to-wall poster of vineyards, with the title: "Langhe-Roero e Monferrato, UNESCO World Heritage Site." So I asked the waitress, "Where's Langhe? Roero?"

The statues of Saints Victor,
Charles Borromeo, Ferdinand
and Theresa flank the upper levels
of the façade.
She answered me with one of those nonchalant  gestures so typical of Italian women, and that we foreigners cherish so dearly, which Estela and interpreted as meaning "everywhere" or "everywhere around here". However, when we pressed her for more specific directions, she said: "Go to Pollenzo!" So off we went, off to look for another town we had never heard of before, a "Castrum" (camp or settlement) in times of the ancient Rome, then called: Pollentia.

The elevated passageway
 between San Vito Church and
the parish hall is  neo-Gothic
Italy is the place of reengineered buildings and historically multilayered sites. This descriptions is true of Pollenzo. After its days as a Roman settlement, it was "rediscovered" during the middle ages, to be forgotten again, until the mid-19th Century, when the Savoy Dynasty of the Kingdom of Italy made Pollenzo their royal residence. After World War II, Pollenzo was the site where the King of Italy rescinded from the Monarchy. In the last 20 years it was re-discovered again, this time as the center of the University of Gastronomical Sciences,, the Slow Food Institute, and la Banca del Vino
Behind Estela, the Forum, the Tower
and l'Agenzia.

This quadrilateral complex was a 19th Century
Gothic revival project of King Carlo Alberto,
and executed by architect Melano.

The arcades of the Forum are
Gothic, while the design of the
tower is completely fanciful

This tower's battlements are
inspired in  medieval ideals,
while the style is merely

Behind the parked cars is the private residence of
the decedents of the Savoy Royal Family.

Roman castrum is revealed by
archeological dig behind Estela 

This plaque declares Pollenzo
as a UNESCO World Heritage

One of several boutique hotels
 in Pollenzo

A peep inside a small boutique hotel.