Whether "Italians do it better" is definitely debatable but the people at Cuisine, a New Zealand food magazine, have definitely done a lovely job with their July issue dedicated to Italian cuisine and full of wonderful recipes. Apart from the striking cover photograph, two articles in particular, pictured below, caught our attention: Screen Sirens, in which various chefs associate a particular Italian dessert with a classic Italian movie; and Master class, which features beautiful photographs and a stunning page layout, dedicated to wintry Italian dishes. If you love Italian food, this issue of Cuisine is a must! Currently available in news agencies at the cheap as patatine price of $10.90.
Prendendo spunto dall'articolo di blog dedicato a Firenze di Sarah White di Art Escape Italy, in cui Sarah giustamente suggerisce di visitare il Museo del Bargello, ecco un'altro museo assolutamente da visitare a Firenze, il Museo del Monastero di San Marco, famoso per la serie straordinaria di affreschi delle Storie di Cristo del Beato Angelico dipinte tra il 1442 e il 1445. Ecco come la guida Time Out Florence e il bel libro di Judith Testa, An Art Lover's Guide to Florence, descrivono il museo:
Museo di San Marco
Piazza San Marco 1 (055 2388608, www.polomuseale.firenze.it). Open 8.15am-1.50pm Tue-Fri, 1st. 3rd & 5th Mon of mth; 8.15am-4.50pm Sat, 2nd & 4th Sun of mth. Admission €4. No credit cards.
The Museo di San Marco is not only a fascinating coming-together of religion and history, but a wonderful place to rest and take in the general splendour. Housed in the monastery where he lived with his fellow monks, the museum is largely dedicated to the ethereal paintings of Fra Angelico (aka Beat Angelico), one of the most important spiritual artists of the 15th century. a man who would never lift a brush without a prayer and who wept whenever he painted a crucifixion. You're greeted on the first floor by one of the most famous images in Christendom, an other-wordly Annunciation, but the images Fra Angelico and his assistants frescoed on the walls of the monks' white vaulted cells are almost as impressive. Particularly outstanding are the lyrical Noli Me Tangere, which depicts Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene in a field of flowers, and the surreal Mocking of Christ, in which Christ's torturers are represented simply by relevant fragments of their anatomy (a hand holding a whip, a face spitting).
The cell that was later occupied by Fra Girolamo Savanarola is adorned with portraits of the rabid reformer by Fra Bartolomeo. You can also see his black wool cloak and his cilith, which was tied around the thigh to cause constant pain in reminder of the suffering of Christ. Near the cells reserved specially for Cosimo de' Medici is the beautiful library designed by his favourite architect, Michelozzo, in 1441.
On the ground floor, in the Ospizio dei Pellegrini (pilgrims' hospice), are more works by Fra Angelico. The Tabernacle of the Madonna dei Linuaiuoli, his first commission from 1433 for the guild of linen makers, is here - painted on wood carved by Ghiberti, it contains some of his best-known images: the multi-coloured musical angels. You can also see a superb Deposition and a Last Judgement. The small refectory is dominated by a Ghirlandaio Last Supper (1479-80) in which the disciples pick at a repast of bread, wine and cherries against a symbolic background of orange trees, a peacock, a Burmese cat and flying ducks.
Time Out Florence (pp. 80-81; 2011)
The Monastery of San Marco
Piety and Politics in a Cloistered World
Few places in Florence seem more distant from the concerns, pressures, and values of the secular world than the Dominican monastery of San Marco. Although its exterior is undistinguished and it faces a busy piazza that swarms with cars, buses, pedestrians, and students from the nearby art academy on bicycles, the interior is one of the city's most serenely beautiful spaces. Constructed on harmonious lines and filled with luminous, deeply spiritual frescoes painted by Fra Angelico and his assistants, San Marco still offers a tranquil retreat from the stresses of urban life. But for all the seeming otherworldliness of its monastic ideals, continued by the
present-day Dominicans who still occupy a portion of the complex, both the circumstances surrounding the construction of San Marco and many of the paintings that filI its interior have connections with Florence's political life. This monument to Dominican piety is also a monument to the power of the Medici family.
Inside, San Marco looks much as it did in the 1400s. The public entrance leads to the main cloister, a spacious open square, with white stucco walls behind an arcade whose arches spring from columns of the gray-brown local stone known as pietra serena (serene stone). The cloister grounds are carpeted in grass and contain stately cypress trees - a perfect place for visitors to sit for a while in the shade. The interior hasn't changed a great deal, either. The whitewashed walls punctuated here and there with Angelico's exquisite frescoes, the chapter room, the grand staircase, the high-ceilinged corridors leading to three separate dormitories (one for novices, one for professed clerics, one for lay brothers), with each cell containing a devotional image painted or planned by Fra Angelico, are all still there, with the recently restored wall paintings looking as fresh as the day they were completed.
But cloistered serenity can be deceiving. San Marco had a complicated and turbulent beginning that involved a good deal of what we'd call "politicking". The site originally held a monastery occupied by an order of Silvestrine monks, and if we can believe the Dominicans who wanted the land and buildings, the Silvestrines had allowed their property to fall into a scandalous state of disrepair, while the monks there were living dissolute, unchaste lives. As early as 1418 the Dominicans petitioned Pope Martin V to expel the Silvestrines and turn the property over to them, but their pleas brought no results.
Meanwhile, in the same neighborhood, the Medici familywas accumulating money, prestige, and political power, their road to riches launched in the early 1400s by the transfer of lucrative papal accounts to the Medici bank. By the early 1430s Cosimo de' Medici had become such a powerful figure in Florence that his position aroused the envy of his rivals, who had him exiled in 1433. When he returned triumphant a year later, and the Medici again established their political ascendancy over Florentine life, the Dominicans found their perfect patron in Cosimo. The wealthiest and most powerful man in Florence was ready to embark on a generous program of religious philanthropy.
Despite his worldly nature, Cosimo also had a spiritual side, and he was attracted by the austere life of the Observant Dominicans, who followed a more rigorous observance of St. Dominic's Rule than the rest of the order. Having learned that a group of Observants from a Dominican house in nearby Fiesole wanted to take over the Silvestrine convent in Florence, he put his considerable influence behind their efforts. When the new pope Eugenius IV was in Florence in 1435, at the request of Cosimo de' Medici and his brother Lorenzo the pope reopened the debate concerning the Silvestrines and ordered an investigation into that order's behavior at San Marco. To the dismay of the Dominicans and the Medici brothers, the papal commission concluded that the accusations against the Silvestrines were unfounded.
This put the pope in a difficult position. He didn't want to disappoint the Medici, who constituted the most important political power in Florence, or the Observant Dominicans, who were strong supporters of his papacy, so he compromised by granting the Observants a small church on the far side of the Arno, a decision that didn't satisfy anybody. The Medici brothers then persuaded the Signoria, the governing body ofFlorence over which they exercised a significant degree of control, to petition Eugenius IV to give the little church on the other side of the Arno to the Silvestrines and the convent of San Marco to the Dominican Observants.
The Medici had maneuvered the pope into a position where he had little choice but to do their bidding. If he left the Silvestrines at San Marco, he'd displease both the powerful Medici and the Florentine populace who supported them, and he'd be seen as allowing the convent to fall to ruin. On the other hand, if he granted San Marco to the Dominicans, he not only would satisfy a religious order that supported papal authority, he'd also gain the approval of the Florentines and please the Medici, whose support he needed, and who had declared themselves ready to finance the rebuilding of the convent. The Medici were, furthermore, the generous hosts of the pope who at that time was living in Florence, and in Rome they were bankers to the papal curia and thus to the pope himself. At this point it no longer mattered whether the luckless Silvestrines were as bad as the Dominicans claimed they were: this was an instance where financial and political considerations trumped religious ones. As of January 1436, the Silvestrines were out of San Marco and the Observant Dominicans were in.
Work began that same year on the rebuilding of San Marco, under the direction of Michelozzo, a favorite Medici architect, with funds coming directly from Cosimo and Lorenzo de' Medici. According to the official Cronaca, the chronicle of the monastery, construction proceeded with such speed that by 1443 the convent was ready to be occupied. We don't know precisely when Fra Angelico and his assistants began painting the more than fiffty frescoes that cover many of the wall surfaces inside San Marco, but a date of around 1440 seems likely.
Fra Angelico remains one of the most beloved of Italian Renaissance painters, an artist known for his gentle, ethereal depictions of angels, saints, and the Holy Family. Perhaps because of his later nickname (he wasnt called Angelico in his lifetime), the tendency persists to see him as literally angelic, rather than as a talented and devout monk, and also a practical man. He was already well into adulthood and a successful, widely known painter before he discovered his religious vocation and entered the Dominican order around 1420. He is first recorded as a friar at the Dominican convent in Fiesole in 1423, where he became known as Fra Giovanni. The initial mention of him residing at San Marco, the convent so closely associated with his name, occurs in 1441, a move probably dictated by his responsibilities as the artist in charge of producing the paintings for the convent's interior.
Although modern scholars love to posit the existence of a "theological advisor" to artists involved in creating large programs of religious subjects (a learned individual who dictates to the artist what he should portray), there's no need for any such figure with regard to Fra Angelico. He was a fully professed member of the Dominican order, familiar with theology as well as with the order's Rule, so the prior of the convent must have given him a relatively free hand. The artist may have consulted with the prior, and perhaps also with his fellow monks, in choosing the subjects to be portrayed, but there's no comprehensive program to the frescoes at San Marco, beyond their fidelity to Observant Dominican traditions, and an important subtheme of homage to the convent's benefactors, the Medici.
Angelico's frescoes - beautiful as they may be - were not intended as decoration but more as aids to meditation and prayer. In the case of the frescoes in the individual monks' cells, that prayer and meditation would be private, but in all but one of the instances where the frescoes adorn the public spaces of the convent - the hallways, the chapter room where the convent conducted its daily business, and the church -those communal prayers took place before images that brought to mind the Medici.
The answer to the question of how Fra Angelico referred to the convent's secular patrons in religious paintings without disturbing the spiritual balance of those works becomes clear when the viewer identifies the saints portrayed in the paintings. On the back wall of the chapter room Angelico painted a large Crucifixion with several unique features that pertain both to the Observant allegiance of the San Marco community and to their debt to their Medici patrons. As we'd expect, St. Dominic has a prominent place, kneeling in prayer at the right of the Cross. Beyond him on the right is a group of monastic figures, most of them not Dominicans - instead, they're the founders of especially rigorous forms of monastic life of the kind led by the Observant Dominicans. On the left Angelico placed St. Cosmas and St. Damian and, to their right, St. Lawrence and St. Mark, none of them often portrayed in Crucifixion scenes. But there's logic to their presence here. St. Mark is the convent's patron saint, and the others are Medici patron saints: Cosmas and Damian were the particular protectors of Cosimo, and St. Lawrence of Cosimo's brother Lorenzo. Since the chapter room was central to the life of the convent, the site where the entire community met every morning, the monks had daily reminders of Medici patronage before their eyes.
Similar reminders occur in a fresco in the east corridor, the location of the friars' dormitories. An image of the Madonna and Child with eight saints, the work is surprisingly sumptuous. The figures stand before a wall adorned with classical-style pilasters, and the Virgin and Child are seated on a throne-like bench covered with a richly brocaded cloth. The painting also includes saints flanking the Virgin's throne. There are several expected figures: the convent patron, St. Mark, and the order's founder, St. Dominic, as well as the Dominicans'greatest theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas. But here, as in the fresco in the chapter room, the other saints all have Medici connections. Cosmas, Damian, and Lawrence appear again, this time joined by St. Peter Martyr, probably to honor Cosimo's son Piero, and St. John the Evangelist, the patron saint of Cosimo and Lorenzo's father, Giovanni, and of Cosimo's son of the same name. Through this work, three generations of Medici men would be remembered in the friars' prayers every morning when they grouped around the painting.
We might wonder what Fra Angelico, himself an Observant Dominican, thought of this luxurious image occupying such a highly visible place in the convent. A subtle clue appears in the text readable in a book held open by St. Dominic, who stands on the far left. The inscription begins with a customary command of that saint: "Have charity, preserve humility, possess voluntary poverty." But the text continues with some unexpected words: "I invoke God's curse and mine on the introduction of possessions into this Order." It is difficult to imagine that either the prior, who had accepted Medici money on behalf of the convent, or Cosimo and Lorenzo de' Medici, who provided the money, would have wanted such a statement included in the fresco. Perhaps smuggling it into this painting, whose luxurious setting suggests the "possessions" that St. Dominic warned against, was Angelico's own idea, a small, nearly unnoticeable protest against the Medici largesse that had rescued the convent from ruin, but perhaps at the price of compromising Observant ideals.
The frescoes in the monks' cells are quite different from these public expressions of gratitude to the convent's patrons. All the subjects are drawn from the life of Christ or Mary, the two great objects of Dominican devotion, and all are painted in an austere style, with no references to the Medici. Among the most characteristic is the Annunciation, in Cell 3. The composition is severe and simple - Mary occupies a room as plain as the Dominican cell in which the fresco is painted. A small, paper-thin figure in a pale pink garment, Mary seems to huddle against the wall rather than kneel on the bench in front of her, the very emblem of humility and supreme obedience to the will of God, virtues every Dominican strove to emulate. The Angel Gabriel stands looking down at her, an unusual arrangement, as Mary is almost always shown at a higher level than the angel. Between them is empty space that's not, on closer inspection, empty at all, but full of a radiant light that powerfully suggests the miracle taking place there.
Just outside the loggia where Mary receives the angel stands a Dominican monk in an attitude of prayer - another exemplar for the monk whose cell contained the painting. Many of the paintings in the monks' cells show a similar figure accompanying the biblical scene. These witnesses to the religious narratives may be reflections of the Observant Dominicans' close attention to a widely circulated thirteenth-century Dominican treatise on prayer, De modo orandi, which offered instruction on the proper way for Dominican monks to commune with the divine.
The monks' cells were more than a place to sleep - they were also used for prayer, meditation, study, and preparations for preaching, the latter among the most important duties of Dominican friars. The Dominicans appear to have invented the use of private cells for individual monks, rather than having a single, large dormitory for all the monks, a space used only for sleeping. The prior and members of the San Marco community must have believed that paintings in the monks' cells would play an important role in their devotional lives. Although we have no information about how the subjects were distributed, it would be reasonable to think that those original, fortunate friars who were Angelico's fellow Observant Dominicans each chose a favorite theme for his cell, and Angelico provided it. The decision to decorate each cell in a monastic dormitory with a fresco had never before been considered by any other Dominican convent, or by any other religious order, a fact that makes Angelico's frescoes even more extraordinary.
Although no references to the Medici intrude on the friars in their personal cells, Cosimo de' Medici was nonetheless a presence at the convent. He had his own quarters, reserved for his use whenever he wanted to spend time praying and meditating or merely retreating there to escape the pressures of his life. This was a most unusual privilege, granted only to royalty in places other than Italy, and only one Florentine before Cosimo had enjoyed a private space in a religious institution. Well aware of this, Cosimo made sure his quarters were modest - two interconnected cells (numbers 38 and 39) on the north corridor where the lay brothers lived, so his presence would not interrupt or interfere with the lives of the Dominican clerics.
Although there's nothing luxurious about Cosimo's quarters, the paintings in them make clear references to the Medici. The first of Cosimo's cells (number 38) has a Crucifixion painted on its wall, quite similar to others in the convent, but with unique features that associate it with the Medici family. In addition to the customary figures of the Virgin and St. John the Evangelist, St. Cosmas and St. Peter Martyr kneel at the foot of the Cross - the patron saints of Cosimo and his son Piero. John the Evangelist does double duty, both as a traditional figure and as the patron saint of Cosimo's younger son and his father, both named Giovanni.
The second cell (number 39) is somewhat larger and, with a vaulted ceiling, may have been Cosimo's private oratory, a miniature chapel. Against the back of a small, arched niche in the center of the north wall is a painting of Christ as the Man of Sorrows. This niche may have held the Sacrament, which by papal decree Cosimo was allowed to have in his chapel. On the wall above, and rising to the vaulting, is a large, detailed painting of the Adoration of the Magi. This subject was especially popular with the Medici, since the precious gifts given by the Magi to the Infant Jesus legitimized the serving and glorifying of God through liberal giving in the cause of faith. The artist -most probably Angelico's chief assistant, Benozzo Gozzoli - later painted a brilliant and much more elaborate version of the subject on the walls of the chapel in the Medici Palace, which Cosimo began building shortly after the dedication of San Marco in 1443.
Although the Magi themselves are not saints, the Florentines celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) with elaborate pageantry, and the Medici regarded the Three Kings as their special patrons. The men of the family took an active part in the Confraternity of the Magi, and the city's annual Magi Procession on ]anuary 6, which began at the cathedral and ended at San Marco, was an occasion when Medici power was much in evidence. The inclusion of Orientals and Africans in the entourage of the Magi in the San Marco fresco may be a reference to the Church Council that took place in 1439 in Florence (thanks to Cosimo's success in having it moved there from Ferrara), and which attempted to reconcile the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity. The presence of the Adoration in Cosimo's cell can therefore be seen as an expression of the seamless blending of politics and religion the Medici were so accomplished at sponsoring.
There's one more painting by Fra Angelico at San Marco where the Medici are much in evidence: the panel that once adorned the high altar of the convent church. No longer in the church, the painting is now displayed in the Museo di San Marco, located in what used to be the convent's guest quarters, just to the right of the entrance. Along with many other paintings by Fra Angelico, brought there from churches and convents in and around Florence, we find what once must have been a spectacular work of art now severely damaged by a disastrous nineteenth-century cleaning with caustic soda. Despite its sad state, the altarpiece is worth examining both for its unusual formal qualities and for its connections with the Medici.
The San Marco altarpiece displays a traditional subject, the Virgin and Child enthroned with saints and angels, but that's its only traditional aspect. The more conservative friars at San Marco may have been startled, perhaps even disapproving, of an altarpiece with no gold ground behind the sacred figures to suggest heaven, no disparity of scale to make the Virgin and Child larger than the other figures, and most surprising of all, an entire sacred scene set in a realistic environment with a convincing sense of three-dimensional space. At bottom center there appears to be a small panel of the Crucifixion overlapping the painting, but this is an ingenious illusion - a painting within a painting - that's meant to be understood as vertical, in contrast to the flat floor that extends behind it.
The composition is designed so that the viewer seems to look down on the richly patterned carpet that leads up to the steps of the Virgin's throne. On this carpet the artist has arranged with great care a group of eight saints. Closest to the Virgin and Child are St. Mark (on our left), the patron saint of the church and convent, and on our right, St. Dominic. Once again, the rest of the saints refer to the Medici. St. John the Evangelist, patron of Cosimo's father and son, stands next to St. Mark. Next to St. Dominic is Francis of Assisi, a surprising inclusion in a Dominican altarpiece, but understandable because he and the third monastic saint on the right, Peter Martyr, were the co-patrons of Cosimo's elder son, Piero. St. Lawrence, patron of Cosimo's brother Lorenzo, who had died in 1440, is farthest from the Virgin on the left. Cosimo's own patron saints, Cosmas and Damian (seeming larger than the others because of their placement), kneel in the foreground. Cosmas, on the left, turns and looks out toward the viewer, indicating the Virgin and Child with his right hand, while Damian remains in adoration. Like a pair of pillars, the two Medici saints literally support the scene, just as the Medici brothers supported the Dominican convent and its church.
The face of St. Cosmas is so strongly individual that some scholars have claimed it's a portrait of Cosimo de' Medici. This is unlikely, since the features bear no resemblance to portraits of Cosimo, but the sad, haggard visage is unlike any other painted by Fra Angelico. A further unusual feature is the saint's contemporary Florentine clothing, which is distinct from the tunics and toga-like garments worn by the other saints on the left side of the painting. His flat red hat is equally unique. What remains indisputable is that the name saint of Cosimo de' Medici quickly attracts the viewer's attention, and that the saint then directs our attention to the Virgin and Child. By this means, the artist links the patron's benevolence with the hoped-for benevolence of the Mother of God, which would include both the Medici and the monastery. This emphasis on Cosimo's patron saint-and, by extension, the donor family-must have been a deliberate decision by Fra Angelico, the artist's and the community's response to the new political realities of Florence under the indirect but unmistakable rule of Cosimo de' Medici.
The support offered by Cosimo to San Marco was unprecedented in both its scope and its duration. For one family and, after the death of Cosimo's brother Lorenzo, one man to sponsor a project as extensive as the rebuilding and decorating of San Marco, was extraordinary enough, but Cosimo also pledged continuing support to the community. Every week until his death in 1464 he ordered generous amounts of food for the convent; he allocated money for things as disparate as wood, salt, footwear, and medicines; from time to time he provided money for the purchase of feathers, linen, and cotton for pillows and beds, and fabric for the making of habits; for festivals he gave money for candle wax; and he was always willing to pay for any books needed by the monks for their studies.
Cosimo's motives for such largesse have been much discussed by historians. Vespasiano da Bisticci, Cosimo's contemporary and earliest biographer, suggested that the Medici patriarch financed the rebuilding of San Marco and many other projects to atone for his guilt about usury - lending money at interest - as this was considered a sin by the Church. But there must have been other reasons for Cosimo's patronage, among them both sincere piety and sound political judgment. To sponsor the construction of fine, beautifully decorated buildings intended to honor God was a civic virtue as well as a religious one, an act of generosity and benevolence that brought credit both to himself and to his city. San Marco, so little changed since the 1400s, is a site where this subtle interrelationship of politics, religion, and art remains on full display.
An Art Lover's Guide to Florence - Judith Testa (pp.119 - 128; Northern Illinois University Press; 2012)
Ecco come Tim Parks spiega, nel suo bel libro, Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics and Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence, il ruolo di mecenate di Cosimo de' Medici nella ristrutturazione del Monastero di San Marco:
But contradictions, of course, were there to be overcome. That had always been Cosimo's attitude. And when it came to the conflicting claims of Christian devotion and secular fame, the most effective way to resolve the problem, as Cosimo had learned from the commissioning of Giovanni XXIII's tomb, was through art and architecture. "I know the Florentines," Cosimo told his bookseller and later biographer, vespasiano da Bisticci. "Before fifty years are up we'll be expelled, but my buildings will remain." Most of those buildings were religious. You lavished money on the sacred, to gain earthly fame. And a place in heaven. Apparently you could have your cake and eat it too. Or have your wife drunk and the wine keg full, as the Italians say.
Having "accumulated quite a bit on his conscience," Vespasiano tells us, "as most men do who govern states and want to be ahead of the rest," Cosimo consulted his bank's client, Pope Eugenius, conveniently present in Florence (hence more or less under Cosimo's protection) as to how God might "have mercy on him, and preserve him in the enjoyment of his temporal goods." This was shortly after his return from exile.
Spend 10,000 florins restoring the Monastery of San Marco, Eugenius replied. lt was the kind of capital required to set up a bank.
The monastery, however - a large, rambling, and crumbling structure within two minutes' walk of both the duomo and, Cosimo's home - was presently run by a bunch of second-rate monks of the Silvestrine order reported as living "without poverty and without chastity". Unforgivable. I'll spend the money if you get rid of the Silvestrines and replace them with the Dominicans, Cosimo said. Those severe Dominicans! Only the prayers of men whose very identity was grounded in poverty and purity could be of use to a banker with an illegitimate child.
This was 1436, the year pope Eugenius reconsecrated the duomo upon the completion, after more than fifteen years' work, of Brunelleschi's huge dome. With a diameter of 138 feet, the dome was the most considerable feat of architectural engineering for many hundreds of years. Its red tiles rose even higher than the white marble of Giotto's slender ornamental tower beside the cathedral's main entrance, and the two together completely dominated the skyline of the town in yet another ambiguous combination of local civic pride and devotion to faith. The Florentines, in fact, had for years been anxious that the dome would collapse, thereby inviting the ridicule rather than admiration of their neighbors.
On the occasion of the consecration, Cosimo bargained publicly with Eugenius to get an increase in the indulgence that the Church was handing out to all those who attended the ceremony. The pope gave away: ten years off purgatory instead of six. It cost no one anything and brought both banker and religious leader great popularity. On the matter of San Marco, the pope again proved flexible. The Silvestrines were evicted. The rigid Dominicans were moved in from Fiesole. Their leader at the time was Antonino, later Archbishop Antonino, a priest with a streak of fundamentalism about him. What would our Saint Dominic think, he wrote after the expensive renovation was complete, if he saw the houses and cells of his order "enlarged, vaulted, raised to the sky and most frivolously, adorned with superfluous sculptures and paintings"?
But this fundamentalism was indeed only a streak - only a would-be severity if you like - otherwise the priest could hardly have worked together with the banker for as long as he did. For the story of Cosimo's relationship with Antonino, who oversaw the lavish San Marco renovation project and then became head of the Florentine church for most of Cosimo's period of power is the story of the Church's uneasy accommodation with patronage of dubious origin. "True charity, should be anonymous," Giovanni Dominici, founder of the Dominicans, had insisted. "Take heed," Jesus says, "that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven." The position is clear: no earthly honor through Christian patronage. But Antonino and Cosimo were both sufficiently intelligent to preserve those blind spots that allow for some useful exchange between metaphysics and money: in the ambiguous territory of art. In return for his cash, the banker would be allowed to display his piety and power. And superior aesthetic taste. The Church would pretend that all this beauty was exclusively for the glory of God, as it readily pretended that the building of the duomo's cupola had nothing to do with Brunelleschi's megalomania. Without such dishonesty, the world would be a duller place.
Mchelozzo, more than ever Cosimo's personal friend after sharing his period of exile, was the architect. The monks' cells would be suitably austere. The library, with its rows of slim columns supporting clean white vaults, was a miracle of grace and light. Cosimo donated the books. Many were copied specifically for the purpose. Many were beautifully illuminated. The main artist in the project was Fra Angelico, otherwise known us Beato Angeiico, a man who wept as he painted the crucifixions in all the novices' cells. Quarrel with that if you will. Antonino insisted on crucifixions, especially for novices. The true purpose of art is to allow the Christian to contemplate Christ's agony in every awful detail. But at the top of the stairs leading to those cold cells, Angelico's Annunciation presents two sublimely feminine figures generously dressed as if by Florence's best tailors. And in the church below, the monastery's main altarpiece , The Coronation of the Virgin, shows just how far Cosimo has come since the tomb of Giovanni XXIII.
Holding her unexpected child, the Virgin sits crowned with banker's gold in a strangely artificial space, as if her throne were on a stage, but open to trees behind. It was the kind of scene the city's confraternities liked to set up for their celebrations, funded of course by benefactors such as the Medici. Aside from San Marco and San Domenico (patron saints of the monastery and of its nerwly incumbent order), the figures grouped around the Holy Mother are all Medici name-saints: San Lorenzo, for Cosimo's brother, who had recently died; San Giovanni and San Pietro for Cosimo's sons. Kneeling at the front of the picture, in the finest crimson gowns of the Florentine well-to-do , are San Cosma and San Damiano. Cosma on the left, wearing the same red cap that Cosimo prefers, turns the most doleful and supplicating face to the viewer, the Florentine congregation. Apparently he mediates between the people and the Divine, as Cosimo himself had done the day he got the pope to hand out ten years' worth of indulgences instead of six. Damiano instead has his back to us and seems to hold the Virgin's eyes.
In later years, other managers of the Medici bank - Francesco Sassetti, Tommaso Portinari, Giovanni Tornabuoni - would have themselves introduced directly into biblical scenes. Solemn in senatorial Roman robes as they gazed on the holy mysteries, they showed that at least in art there need be no contradiction between classical republic and city of God, between banker and beatitude. Cosimo had more tact. He appeared only by proxy, in his patron saint. Or saints. For he never forgot to include brother Damiano, perhaps half hidden by Cosma's body turned toward the Virgin, or the crucifixion, as if half of the living Cosimo were already beyond this earth, in heaven, with his dead twin brother. No doubt this generated a certain pathos. "Cosimo was always in a hurry to have his commissions finished," said Vespasiano da Bisticci, "because with his gout he feared he would die young." He was in a hurry to finish San Marco, in a hurry to finish the huge renovation of his local church, San Lorenzo, then the beautiful Badia di Fiesole, the Santissima Annunziata, and many others as the years and decades flew by, including the restoration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Ever in a hurry he grew old fearing he would die young. Perhaps it was this that made him such a master of the ad hoc.
When the restoration of San Marco was finally finished in 1443, Pope Eugenius, now with his bags packed ready to return to a pacified Rome, agreed that the church should be reconsecrated under the name San Marco, San Cosma, and San Dami- ano. So Cosimo reminded everyone of his part in the project, but unobtrusively, as with the Good Men of San Martino. Not for him the gesture of the banker Giovanni Rucellai, who advertised his personal patronage by having his name written in yard-high letters right across the façade of Santa Maria Novella. All the same, an
attentive observer would have noticed, in that San Marco altarpiece, a line of red balls around the lovely carpet on which the family name-saints knelt before the gorgeous Virgin. Were they really the red balls of the Medici family emblem? There were no Last Judgments in Cosimo's San Marco. Discreetly, head bowed and cap in hand, the profane invaded the sacred space and made it comfortable.
Cosimo practiced the banker's art of unobtrusive proximity. It wasn't enough that men dedicated to poverty had accepted his money and its role in their scheme of things, thus giving tacit approval to his business practices; they must also admit him right into their community, accept that he was one of them. So he had a cell built for himself beside the monks' cells. Except that Cosimo's cell had two rooms. It was larger and pleasanter. Over the door, engraved in stone, were the words of the papal bull that granted him absolution from all sins in return for his expenses. Few eyes would see this, but Cosimo wanted it written down, indelibly, like a bank contract that only the interested parties need consult. "Never shall I be able to give God enough to set him down in my books as a debtor" he remarked humbly of his huge outlay for San Marco. Yet clearly that was the kind of relationship he would have preferred.
Opposite the door of the first room of Cosimo's cell, or a wall that novices might glimpse as they walked along the corridor, was one of Fra Angelico's crucifixions. How could the monks not approve? But in the larger, private cell behind, with more expensive paints and stronger colors, Cosimo had the younger, more cheerful artist, Benozzo Gozzoli, assist Angelico in painting a procession of the Magi. It was Cosimo's favorite biblical theme. He would be responsible for at least half a dozen such pictures in his lifetime. All in bright colors. Fifteen years after San Marco, around three walls of the tiny chapel in the heart of his great palazzo, he and his son Piero had the same Gozzoli paint a lavish Magi procession in which, for the few who penetrated that sanctum, Cosimo himself at last appeared in person, riding on a mule behind the youngest of the three Magi. Common to many of the Florentine elite, the Magi obsession is easily explained. What other positive images of rich and powerful men did the New Testament offer?
Cosimo's extension of his Church patronage beyond his own neighborhood and eventually all over town, the numerous depictions of Saints Cosma and Damiano, the raising of the Medici arms, the red balls on a golden field, in one sacred place after another - all this has been read, rightly no doubt, as the symbolism of political ambition. Certainly it caused resentment among those who felt their territory had been invaded, those exiles who lost their family chapels to members of the Medici clan.
Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics and Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence - Tim Parks (pp. 121 - 130; Profile Books; 2005)
Ed ecco due video in cui Andrew Graham-Dixon e Alberto Angela visitano il Monastero di San Marco a Firenze:
E, per finire, ecco un documentario su Fra Angelico del 1998:
Last Friday, July the 8th, Dolce & Gabbana presented, in a spectacular fashion, their 2016 alta moda collection in the cobblestoned streets of Naples' historic centre turning via San Gregorio Armeno, the street famous for the Neapolitan nativity crib shops which line it, and piazza San Gaetano into an amazingly picturesque catwalk under the gaze of the guest of honour, Sophia Loren. Here is how Fashionista, the Financial Times, and Il Corriere della Sera described the event followed by three short videos of the parade:
DOLCE & GABBANA TAKES OVER NAPLES FOR A WILD 'ALTA MODA' WEEKEND
The Italian house's answer to couture was inspired by Sophia Loren, who grew up not far from the show's location.
MAURA BRANNIGAN, JUL 12, 2016
Not one month after Dolce & Gabbana staged a celebrity millennial-filled men's show in Milan, the Italian fashion house kicked things up a notch for its Alta Moda show in Naples on Saturday. As Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana's answer to couture, the raucous event is known to spare no expense — both in terms of clothing and entertainment. This season's celebration mirrored that of a street festival, not unlike the brand's fall 2016 campaign, which captures local civilians alongside models. For Alta Moda, Dolce & Gabbana took over an entire stretch of the city, incorporating a brass band, fireworks and a gilded velvet bandstand where the evening's guest of honor, Sophia Loren, sat front and center.
Loren has served as a muse to the Italian house for some time now, most recently appearing in the brand's latest fragrance film this past January. But this collection was explicitly inspired by the 81-year-old actress, who grew up not far from Naples and shot many of her classic movies there, as well. Indeed, all 30 of the larger-than-life looks were fit for true Italian diva; each gown, tuxedo and bodice was more elaborately embellished and intricately detailed than the next.
While we weren't there to watch the extravaganza unfold in-person, there was, of course, quite a bit of Instagram footage, thanks to the crowd's many VIP guests. Read on to see all the highlights from Dolce & Gabbana's Alta Moda show and wild weekend in Naples.
Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda Naples show reportThe design duo honours Sophia
Loren with a huge Neapolitan homecoming on the city’s streets
JULY 10, 2016; by: Jo Ellison
Despite being the third-largest metropolitan area in Italy, with about three million inhabitants and one of the world’s busiest ports, Naples perhaps lacks the fashionable urgency of its urban rivals. Mostly, the city is tarnished by its reputation for social and political violence.
Even today, the southern city must wrestle with the popular culture that defines it. Fans of the elusive novelist Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet understand the town as bestowing on its children a painful life sentence which psychologically imprisons them within the city walls. Fans of the film and now television series Gomorrah will recognise the city as one of infinite corruption and crime.
And yet for all its raggedy grime Naples still radiates a uniquely seductive glamour, luring film directors, artists and writers to its quarters with its labyrinthine geography, lusty temperatures and earthy humour. This weekend, the city chalked up another amore, the design duo Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce, who staged their 99-look Alta Moda show on the tiny cobbled streets of the city’s oldest quarter and before an invited audience of clients and editors who were there as their guests.
The occasion was designed to coincide with a civic ceremony: the weekend took place as Sophia Loren, the 81-year-old actress and honorary Neapolitan (she was born in Rome and grew up 30 miles or so beyond the city limits) was presented with the keys to the city. The star of a score of Naples-set films and the woman perhaps most responsible for putting the city on the world map (or at least ensuring a few millions eyeballs might swivel in its direction), the actress has as chequered a relationship with her homeland as anyone. In 1982, she served 17 days of a 30-day jail sentence for tax offences committed in 1974. Although she was cleared of all wrongdoing in 2013, after a long legal battle, her visits these days are rare. She had been persuaded to return for this honour, according to Gabbana, on the agreement that their show attend her.
It was a risky destination. The designers ordinarily commandeer exotic, far more exclusive locations to showcase the one-of-a-kind gowns that cost tens of thousands of pounds and are bought by the kind of clients who bring their bodyguards as plus ones. Here the show was set on the street; the catwalk ran down the tiny alleyway of Via San Gregorio Armeno in the city’s artisanal centre before family-owned stores selling nativity sets, painted drums, wooden figurines and other traditional tchotchkes. Chinese clients and Dallas-based billionaires wearing jewel-encrusted gowns and princess tiaras perched on gold-painted chairs, while shopkeepers did a brisk trade in fans, and the street became a mirror of selfies. Locals hung off the surrounding balconies and crowded around guard rails to catch a better view. It was a security nightmare.
“It’s the hardest, most complicated show we have ever undertaken”, explained Dolce as a brass band tuned up alongside him ready to lead the fashion parade. “But power to the people,” he continued. “The street experience is unique, but it made sense to us because this is the street of the artisans. Every family here lives in the culture and is rooted in their trade — just like Alta Moda.”
Of the Neapolitan personality he was effusive: “Napoli is one of the most creative cities on earth,” he insisted. “The people think completely differently, they have another type of brain, they live well. They enjoy their lives. And they don’t want to change. That’s why we wanted to come here.”
Their collection was a paean to the woman of the hour and the city’s diverse heritage — minus the bullet holes: a slim pencil skirt and white bodice opened the show, a look first imagined in The Gold of Naples, Loren’s 1954 film by Vittorio De Sica; fitted dresses with ruched sleeves and flattering hemlines were decorated with roses — Loren’s favourite flower; baroque bejewelled gold capes recalled Saint Januarius, the city’s patron saint; suit jackets were left with dangling threads in honour of its famous tailors; a sky blue silk skirt was embroidered with a washing line of garments; a blousey bodice made in the checks of a pizzeria tablecloth. There were towering gold head pieces, like the religious shrines one sees by the roadside. And a Rum baba hat.
At times the Dolce experience can teeter towards pantomime, the references are so overt and direct. “It’s ironic”, laughed Dolce as he showed off an aqua silk football shirt sequinned with the name Maradona (who played for Napoli in the mid-80s) and the proud number 10. “Our clients want to have a bit of fun. That’s why they come to us.”
And so they do. The clients attending were uniformly dressed in past season’s Dolce, much of which had been purchased, no doubt, at the brand’s Neapolitan pop-up shop. They were a colourful, sparkly lot and this season’s offerings of postcard print needlepoints, gypsy dresses jangling with golden coins, and a souvenir skirt painted with a fishmonger’s catches would not have looked out of place. But there were also serious pieces. A long line black “mama” coat and the hand painted florals that decorated silk dresses and skirts were very sensible, and still very pretty. If the looks were unified by anything it was in their flattering wearability; few designers can project such confidence on a woman as well as Dolce & Gabbana can.
Ever Italian, a sense of fun was still foremost in everyone’s mind. At the show’s close the guests surged towards awaiting cars and the dinner and dancing ahead. As they picked over the uneven paving in their glittery Cinderella slippers a shower of golden confetti rained down. The gold of Naples, Dolce & Gabbana style. It was impossible not to fall for it.
Dolce e Gabbana, la sfilata dedicata a Sophia Loren per le strade di Napoli
I due stilisti presentano l’alta moda all’ombra del Vesuvio con l’attrice. «È a lei che pensiamo quando disegniamo le nostre collezioni»
Paola Pollo; 8 luglio 2016
«Lo vuole un Dolce & Babà?». Nel chilometro vociante di Spaccanapoli da venerdì 8 luglio offrono una nuova delizia omaggio ai nuovi «eroi» della città, Domenico Dolce e Stefano Gabbana. Eccoli uscire commossi, in lacrime, davanti a San Lorenzo a raccogliere gli applausi delle ricchissime clienti della loro alta moda, di Sophia Loren, dei giornalisti ma soprattutto dei napoletani. Affacciati alle finestre, accalcati nei passaggi, stretti nei vicoli, in piedi negli angoli. Lo spettacolo nello spettacolo. I vestiti da perdere la testa e gli occhi sgranati di chi assiste a un miracolo. Perché in un certo senso è, San Gennaro non se ne abbia. Come chiamare diversamente l’aver portato nei vicoli di Napoli le donne più ricche al mondo per mostrar loro abiti fra i più lussuosi che si possa immaginare? Non solo. «Sophia, Sophia» urla la gente. E dai balconi srotolano gli striscioni con il suo nome ricamato in corsivo. «Una foto Sophia, una foto». Lei, la Loren, non si tira indietro. Come nei giorni scorsi non lo hanno mai fatto i due stilisti che hanno percorso in lungo e in largo la città.
AMORE A PRIMA VISTA CON LA CITTÀ
Stefano addirittura ha accettato l’invito di uno sconosciuto che lo ha contattato su Instagram e con lui l’altra mattina è andato in giro per i quartieri spagnoli con la vespa, entrando e uscendo da negozi e case. «Quello che stiamo vivendo — dicono all’unisono con tanta emozione — è questo bagno di folla, questo contatto con la gente che è unico e mai ci saremmo aspettati. Quando Sophia ci disse che era Napoli la città dove voleva sfilassimo in suo onore, siamo rimasti un po’ così. Non la conoscevamo così bene. Ma è stato amore subito. E ora che sta succedendo tutto così, diciamo che il mondo deve sapere che questa città non è solo problemi ma anche bellezza dei luoghi, opportunità artigianali, calore della gente».
L’OMAGGIO ALLA DIVA
Un innamoramento senza condizioni. Nato per caso, forse per questo ancor più travolgente. L’omaggio a Sophia Loren. «La nostra donna da sempre. Dagli inizi. È a lei che pensiamo quando disegniamo le nostre collezioni. Era giusto che fosse la protagonista unica di una nostra sfilata». Eccola allora materializzarsi ad ogni uscita: dalla prima, «L’Oro di Napoli» naturalmente, e poi un susseguirsi di citazioni «La contessa di Hong Kong», «Pane, amore e fantasia», «La ciociara», «Matrimoni all’italiana» e via senza tralasciare nulla della filmografia dell’attrice. «Chiunque e ovunque la conoscono. Qualsiasi generazione. Lei è come la Coca Cola», dicono i due, sostenitori in primis della cittadinanza all’attrice che il sabato 9 luglio il sindaco de Magistris le conferisce: «Le era dovuta. È molto emozionata. L’altra sera sono andata a trovarla e mi ha raccontato tante cose della sua infanzia a Pozzuoli. Dice che si ricorda persino delle buche nelle strade — racconta commosso Stefano Gabbana –. Diceva che il suo sogno era tornare a vedere quei luoghi: le ho detto “vai”. E così ha fatto. Ed era felicissima».
UNA SECURITY DA G8
I sogni sono desideri di felicità. Sembra che voi in questi giorni ne abbiate realizzati tanti di quei sogni, con la vostra moda, ma non solo: «Quando abbiamo cominciato con questo progetto d’alto moda volevamo valorizzare anche il nostro paese, l’Italia, che così bello e ricco di eccellenze alle quali tutti di rivolgono». Già: Taormina, Venezia, Capri, Portofino e ora Napoli. Qui lo sforzo logistico però è stato ancora più immane: un intero quartiere (fra l’altro non dei più facili) tirato a lucido (hanno ripulito le strade, sistemato gli arredi urbani – dalle fioriere alle panchine – e ultimato l’intervento al campanile di San Gregorio Armeno), cinquecento e più ospiti dislocati negli hotel più belli della città (dal Vesuvio, al Parkers al Romeo), centinaia e centinaia di auto a disposizione e una security da G8 la maggior parte scelta fra giovani di Napoli, oltre a una bella spinta commerciale: «Le botteghe tutte ci hanno accolto come non ce lo saremmo mai aspettato: ci siamo trovati protagonisti di presepi meravigliosi, non solo noi, ma anche la nostra moda. Sono riusciti a riprodurre molti nostri capi. E poi dolci e di ogni. Dal giro dell’altro giorno siamo rientrati pieni di regali».
LA SARTORIALITÀ CON IL TOCCO «POP»
Non che i due non siano da meno. Il bagno di folla per strada e sulla passerella. Sin dalle prime strepitose uscite. Con la banda locale di oltre cinquanta elementi che dal sagrato della basilica di San Paolo dà il via allo show e da quella porta escono sacre e profane: una processione mai vista. Ecco le gonne ad anfora di pizzo, i tubini, le bluse scollacciate e sbuffanti, i bustier, le balze, le ruches, i gonnelloni e le mini in un susseguirsi di lavorazioni e ricami e citazioni che sono un misto di passione e ironia: ecco le stampe ricamate con i quartieri spagnoli, il Vesuvio e le sue pendici a piccolo punto, i presepi di cristalli, le Madonna tempestate di pietre, i babà sui cappelli, la maglia di Maradona di seta, il corpetto con la fascia di Miss Eleganza che la Loren vinse nel 1950 e i taffetà con le rose gialle dipinte a mano che la diva adora da sempre. Sartorialità senza pecche con questa volta un tocco di «pop» (ci sono anche jeans e t-shirt e il tutto è meno drammatico) che rende questa collezione di alta moda più immediata e viva delle altre. «Penso che sia stata proprio ispirarsi a Sophia che ci ha portato inevitabilmente a pensare ad abiti più vicini alle gente», spiegano. Naturalmente con apoteosi delle uscite da Gattopardo nel gran finale. Signore clienti fuori-dalla-grazia-di-Dio dalla felicità, per lo show di venerdì sera e la presentazione dei gioielli a Villa Pignatelli. Sabato tocca ai signori, mariti o no, con la sfilata dedicata a loro a Castel Dell’Ovo e cena esclusiva a seguire con dress code «James Bond e Bond Girl». Mentre domenica party conclusivo al bagno Elena, nella baia di Palazzo Donn’Anna, tema Mambo Italiano e che le danze abbiano inizio.
8 luglio 2016 | 21:49
If you are a celebrity, no visit to via San Gregorio Armeno is complete without a photo of oneself with the figurine depicting you that the local craftsmen are famous for making each year, apart from the usual characters you would expect to see in a Nativity scene, and which are hugely popular with visitors to the street.
The dresses designed by Dolce&Gabbana for their 2016 alta moda collection are, of course, all very beautiful and they all bear the label's signature playful and theatrical aesthetic but there is one "dress" in particular which caught our eye and it's the one in the photo below which is inspired by the beloved patron Saint of Naples, San Gennaro (Saint Januarius). Unlike other Saints, San Gennaro's iconography is not terribly exciting: he is represented unbearded, wearing a bishop's miter and mantle. If you visit the Duomo di Napoli, apart from the magnificent chapel dedicated to the Saint, one can also visit the Museum of the Treasure of San Gennaro, which is located next to the Duomo. The museum houses hundreds of priceless art works and donations made to the Saint by Popes, Kings, Emperors, aristocrats and ordinary people over seven centuries and one of the items on display is a golden miter studded with 3964 precious stones made in 1713 by goldsmith Matteo Treglia and considered one of the most precious jewels in the world. This particular mitre is the inspiration behind Dolce&Gabbana's remarkable "dress"!
San Gennaro is an utterly fascinating Saint, famous for the alleged miracle of the annual liquefaction of his blood, yet many students have never heard of him! So, if you are curious, click here for the Wikipedia entry dedicated to the Saint and read the extracts and watch the videos we've included below. Buona lettura e buona visione!!!
Naples' patron St Januarius - Gens Januaria was his surname; his Christian name may have been Proculus - was a bishop of Benevento, who died in 305 during the persecutions of Diocletian. So far, so normal, and the impetuous Neapolitans need more than that to get their devotion going. A large dollop of legend helps.
Gennaro may have been going to visit a fellow Christian in jail in Pozzuoli when he was arrested and condemned to pray to pagan idols. When he refused, he may have been sentenced to be thrown to the wild beasts in Pozzuoli's amphitheatre, a sentence commuted to a more humane beheading when the Christian community rose up en masse.
Alternatively (and much more colourfully), the bishop may have been hurled into a fiery furnace (see Giuseppe Rivera's painting in the Duomo) and survived, been hauled in chains from Nola to Pozzuoli (a good 4okm/25 miles) and thrown to the wild beasts and survived, then declared to possess maglc powers and sentenced to beheading. Before the sentence was carried out in the Solfatara near Pozzuoli, his
persecutor Timotheus may have been struck blind, and been cured by Gennaro, prompting the spontaneous conversion to Christianity of some 5,000 people.
But even martyr-ish derring-do is not sufficient for a superstitious people, obsessed by miraculous happenings. Happily for Gennaro, his blood was scooped up by a far-sighted old woman and, together with his body, kept in Pozzuoli (or Fuorigrotta) until Bishop Severus had them removed to the Catacombs of San Gennaro in the late fourth or early fifth century. It was here, local lore relates, that the saint pulled off the trick that endear him deeply and lastingly to the populace: his dessicated blood liquified.
The catacombs became a centre of great devotion and San Gennaro's miraculous remains were fiercely contested. The Duke of Benevento grabbed them in 831; they
remained in Benevento until 1139, when they were removed yet again to a monastery near Avellino. Rediscovered in 1480, they were returned to the Duomo in Naples in t497 . fheu current home - a purpose-built chapel in the Duomo - was created in the early 17th century.
Since the first documented liquefaction in 1389, the saint's blood has bubbled into action three times a year (on the Saturday before the first Sunday in May, on 19 September (Gennaro's feast day) and on 16 December, always egged on by near-
hysterical crowds. Watchers pray, weep, ululate and grow increasingly frantic if Gennaro looks like letting them down, because the time taken for the blood to liquefy - usually between two minutes and an hour - at the September session is considered a portent of what lies in store for Naples and its citizens over the ensuring 12 months. The longer it takes, the more likely the city is to be stricken by disaster: earthquake, vulcanic eruption, cholera outbreaks, or a disastrous season for its football team.
Time Out Guide: Naples (Penguin Books; 2000)
Saints alive - Blood rites
Naples's former mayor Antonio Bassolino once said that the city's patron saint, San Gennaro, should be called 'the mayor of saints' becase he had presided over all the city's most important moments. Credited with halting eruptions of Vesuvius and keeping calamitles, wars and epidemics at bay, San Gennaro has been an integral paft of Neapolitan life, and the object of devotion, down the ages. The Bourbons even awarded him the title of 'captain general' of their army. Naples felt the tumult of the 1960s Second Vatican Council in a very particular way: the Council decided to downgrade Gennaro to a local cult, causing an uproar of protest in the city (graffiti appeared with slogans like 'San Gennaro, futtenne!' (San Gennaro, don't give a damn about it!). He was officially reinstated to his position as patron saint by Pope John Paul II in 1980.
The saint met his glorious end in 305, when he was beheaded in the Solfatara after surviving another gruesome attempt to kill him (various accounts have him thrown to the lions, incinerated in a fiery furnace or dragged in chains from Nola to Pozzuoli). His blood was scooped up by his far-sighted nanny Eusebia (other versions of the story simply say a pious old woman) and brought to what was to the catacombs of San Gennaro. About a century later, the first miraculous Iiquefaction of Gennaro's dried blood is said to have taken place, although the first official records of the occurrence date back only as far as 1389.
Gennaro's blood bubbles into action in a Duomo chapel three times a year: on the Saturday before the first Sunday in May, on 19 September (his feast day) and on 16 December, each time egged on by hysterical crowds. The September feast day is a real event, covered by national media and attended by dignitaries. A group of women called the parenti di San Gennaro (relatives of San Gennaro) accompany the rltual with prayers and chants. The liquefaction is signalled with a white handkerchief.
It usually takes two minutes to an hour for the blood to liquefy, and the amount of time it takes is considered a portent of what lies in store for Naples, its citizens and its football team over the following 12 months. The longer it takes, the more likely the city is to be stricken by disaster. The phials and sumptuous bust of the saint containing bits of what is said to be his skull are exposed for the eight days following the liquefaction, then locked away again.
The liquefaction of saintly blood is something of a Neapolitan theme. Santa Patrizia and San Giovanni Battista both go liquid in San Gregorio Armeno. And various other saints liquefy too, or have liquefied in the past. Not for nothing is Naples known as urbs sanguinum (city of blood). Neapolitans are generally pretty sceptical about saintly blood, but there's a great affection for the rituals. In any case, why take chances? "lt's not true," they'll tell you. "But I believe it anyway."
Time Out Guide: Naples (Time Out; 2005)
Naples' patron saint: San Gennaro, the Bishop of Benevento, was beheaded in the amphitheatre in Pozzuoli on 19 September 305 during Diocletian's persecutions of the Christians. After the execution his followers collected his blood in two phials. These, it was said, would henceforth determine the Iife of the Neapolitans, for better or for worse.
The Neapolitans made San Gennaro into the most powerful saint in the Catholic church, and they hoped to be rewarded for their devotion. When they had exhausted all possibility of helping themselves, and in every hopeless situation whether financial or personal, great or small, they sought help from San Gennaro. The same holds true today. Whenever SSC Napoli, the local football team, faces a relegation battle supporters cry, "San Gennaro, aiutaci tu!" ("San Gennaro, help us!") - not the usual chant to be heard on stadium terraces.
Good and bad omens: Belief in the saint's powers is directly associated with the two
phials of his blood, kept in the cathedral. On three days a year the blood is said to liquefy. If it fail s to do so it is considered a bad omen for the coming year. The three days when the miracle can occur are 19 September (the day ofthe saint's execution), the Saturday before the first Sunday in May (his birthday), and 16 December.
Proceedings are conducted according to a well-known ritual. When everything is
ready, the cardinal fetches the relic with the holy phials from a safe behind the altar. At this stage of the miracle, the dark substance half-filling the phials is in a solid state. The cardinal then raises the relic repeatedly in the air, in fiont of the congregation, at which point there is a storm of camera flashes and a collective gasp of anticipation.
Anyone who wants to be sure of capturing the moment of liquefaction has to keep the man standing next to the cardinal in view. He is specially chosen from the San Gennaro Committee (consisting of 10 nobles and two representatives of the people). From his gestures and calling, but above all from the cloth in his hand, it is possible for the people to see how the miracle is progressing. Waving the cloth from one side to another, the notary of the miracle cries out to the people: "Il miracolo, il miracolo!", the miracle has taken place. With luck, the substance in the phials is now blood-red and liquid.
At the same time, on a stone in a church in Pozzuoli. said to be the one on which Saint Gennaro was beheaded, a spot of blood takes on a brighter hue. With this, all the conditions are fulfilled to ensure that the next year is one to look forward to with hope.
Perhaps the most dramatic of these liquefactions occurred during the French occupation of Naples in Napoleonic times when a French army general with the
distinctly un-French name of Macdonald went along to witness it. When nothing happened he threatened to shoot the Archbishop and his staff if the blood did not liquefy within 10 minutes. It liquefied there and then. "The benign saint hearing the brutal menace had saved his devoted adherents just in time", reported a staunch believer. "Can one expect a better proof of the validity of the miracle?".
In 1980, when the region was hit, by a severe earthquake, the miracle of the blood failed to occur.
Theories of the cynics: Disbelieving eyes regard the whole ceremony as nothing more than a clever conjuring trick and have proposed all kinds of explanations, including the theory that it is caused by the heat generated by the exceptionally large congregation. The phials have not been opened to allow chemical examination of the contents. but in 1902 a Prolessor Sperindeo shone a ray of light through it and said it gave the spectrum of blood. In 1926 a Father Thurston, a Jesuit who was said to have no time for bogus miracles, declared that "the supposition of any trick or deliberate imposture is out of the question as candid opponents are now willing to admit... We are forced to accept the fact that contrary to all known laws a change goes on in the contents of the hermetically sealed vessel which makes them heavier and lighter in a ratio roughly but not exactly proportioned to their apparent bulk."
Even so, the importance attached to the miracle appears to be waning. Monsignor Pignatiello fears the decline may be irrevocable. Reflecting on one recent ceremony, he said: "The procession was short and only reached from the cathedral to Santa Chiara. The only ones who went were those who had to; the top representatives of the church, and the politicians. Hardly any of the ordinary people joined in." Even in the cathedral, he claims, the faithful were restrained, with no shouting or cries for help. "In the past," says the monsignor, "this religious festival was a cause of unadulterated joy, helping to promote a feeling of togetherness in the community."
The monsignor attributes declining interest to detrimental changes in modern society and thinks the original spirit of the occasion is irretrievably lost. That it was the church authorities themselves who wanted to curb this extremely unorthodox miracle, as some people claim, he flatly denies. In the words of Cardinal Michele Giordano, attempts are now being made "to rescue the spirit of the festival with theological reflection". By this, the cardinal is referring to theologians who are trying to put the San-Gennaro cult on to a purely religious footing, something unlikely to find favour with the people.
The church expresses the same misgivings about the modern lack of a spiritual element in other religious festivals in the city, such as the one honouring the Madonna del Carmine, the holy virgin from Mount Carmel. This festival begins in the market area of the city, and reaches its climax in a spectacular firework display over the church tower.
There are many other religious festivals in the year. A festival to celebrate the virgin birth takes place on 8 September in the area around the Piedigrotta church, thought to have been the site of a heathen temple. The mystical power of the various madonnas is regarded by the Neapolitan faithful as being only slightly less effective than that of San Gennaro. When they are in need of some spiritual help, they cover themselves by turning to both.
Insight guides: The Bay of Naples (APA Publications; 1992)
On the morning of 19 September, the day that San Gennaro's blood is due to liquefy, about fifty of the faithful cluster at the massive cathedral doors of the Duomo of Naples. It's seven o'clock and the group is made up of pensioners: husbands and wives, their grey hair slicked neat or in high quiffs. They've come from all over Naples and they clasp their wallets and handbags tightly because there are pickpockets in the growing crowd behind them.
As they wait for the cathedral to open they talk in varying degrees of dialect about how women, on this sacred day, for this most revered ceremony, used to come dressed up in their very best clothes. "Women don't care any more", they complain. "The girls come in jeans. Imagine! Jeans in the presence of a miracle!"
Their conversation moves on to the council's suggested date change for their city's patron saint's day. The council wants to move it from the historic 19 September to the Sunday closest to the date. The date change is part of the Italian government's plan to reduce weekday holidays and increase productivity. There are too many festivals, saints' days and religious celebrations that fall on weekdays and shut shops and offices. "Must we ask San Gennaro to liquefy his blood on a day that suits us? The state dictates to a saint! Ridicolo!"
There is a newcomer who meekly squeezes closer into the group of old hands. "Excuse me, but what time does the miracle happen?" The regulars look at her patiently, if a little warily. "Signora, it's a miracle. It doesn't have a schedule. It happens when San Gennaro is good and ready and if we deserve it."
"Eh!" she says and steps back into her place. "Of course, of course."
Over the droning hum of the Mobile Blood Donation generators (this is, after all, a celebration of blood) they discuss how the Napoli soccer team won against Milan last night. It was a crushing 3- 1 victory and these devout native Neapolitans are convinced their soccer team's win was a sign. "I think it augurs well. I think the miracle will happen >>>
quickly. Don't you?" They all nod in earnest agreement. They're referring to the times when the liquefaction has taken hours or even days. A soccer victory is an excellent omen. It could point to a quick, fuss-free miracle, indicating that the coming year for Naples will be a good one.
These discerning witnesses of the event know that a quick liquefaction of San Gennaro's congealed blood means that the saint is pleased with the city and that he wili continue to protect Naples from the eruptions of Vesuvius, fires and earthquakes. San Gennaro will ensure that life, politics and collective luck will be good in Naples. The liquefaction, especially if it happens quickly today, signals a prosperous year. A slow change from solid to liquid blood is a bad omen. If it does not happen at all - if the unthinkable happens and San Gennaro's blood stays firm - it means the saint is not at all happy and calamity is imminent. There is no doubt in their minds that next year's good fortune and prosperity depend on the phenomenon that they have come to witness and pray for today. They will stay and pray all day and all night in the little San Gennaro chapel off the side of the Duomo until the phenomenon occurs.
When the cathedral's doors swing open, the talkative group of senior citizens surge forward to secure the best views in the front pews. They push and shove with nimble, shocking desperation and spectacularly sharp elbow jabs.
Inside the church begins to fill up with Neapolitans of all ages. American, Cerman, Armenian and French tourists also find pews. young mothers (in jeans) take their seats and position their strollers. Hymns and rosary chants echo throughout the congregation. Young men dilly-dally as they decide which seat offers the best view. At least three confessionals are in operation and the queues to confess are long. A stage area for the media has been erected to one side of the altar. Like television crews and paparazzi at a Hollywood movie premiere, they jostle each other's tripods and train long black lenses on the red carpets that line the aisles, nave and >>>
apse. Against a background of rising mass communal prayer, a full brass band and two dozen female choristers strike up more strident hymns.
By nine in the morning there are about 4000 people in the Naples Duomo praying quietly for San Gennaro's blood to liquefy. The anticipation is palpable as the city's dignitaries and officials finally file in after a procession up the street. This is an occasion where church and state are knitted together, linked by a marvel that first happened in 1389. The city outside awaits the church's word.
The congregation breaks into rapturous applause when finally the cardinal arrives with the precious blood in a round container that looks like a small glass tambourine. He is holding it by a long handle that is attached to a cord around his neck - a safeguard against, God forbid, dropping it. The cardinal is clearly feeling the pressure. Steady drops of sweat drip down his forehead and hang precariously off his nose.
By the time he reaches the altar the congregation's claps and handkerchief waves are excited, though tense. When he turns to lace his flock he lifts one arm for silence, his smile radiant.
"Not only has San Gennaro's blood liquefied, it had already liquefied when I removed it from its sacred container." The cardinal's voice catches with emotion. "So we know for sure, we are certain now. San Gennaro really loves us."
The crowd is ecstatic. Raw gratitude flows. Men cry openly. Women sob and fall to their knees. A man faints and has to be helped to his feet by his joyous companions. He is giddy with euphoria. The bells peal outside to announce to the city that the miracle has occurred. Like shots from a machine gun, firecrackers explode on the footpath.
A woman nearby lifts her palms high and murmurs her thanks in fervent prayer, "You heard me during the night. You will take care of my family. You will take care of me."
Naples A Way of Life - Carla Coulson & Lisa Clifford (Penguin; 2013)
Vesuvius went quiet after the catastrophe of 79, and the area around it was soon covered again with forest rooted in the mineral richness thrown up by the volcano. People forgot the high, densely covered hill was not a normal hill. It happened over a generation or so. Life resumed and went on as usual for fifteen hundred years.
What terrified everyone in Naples in the middle of the night of December the fifteenth in 1631 was the violent earthquake. It was the shaking that woke them and sent them rushing into the streets. 'When they got outside they saw vesuvius and it seemed to be on fire. Giovan Battista Manso, marquis of Villa - an intellectual and reformer, a founding governor of the charity that commissioned Merisi's Seven Works - was in bed in Naples and not inclined to take much notice of his servants' excitement. He eventually got up and went over to his window. He saw, he wrote to a friend in Rome three days later,
a huge and growing fire . . . part of it rising so fast into the sky that it soon reached above the clouds and part of it pouring down the hill in sheets like a river . . . the earth was shaking almost continuously and at times so intensely that the walls seemed to have a quartan fever.
Over the next days shocked survivors from the country towns around vesuvius started arriving in Naples with burnt clothes and sooty faces, describing their escape from the river of fire pouring down the slopes and seeming to pursue them, choking on the thick smoke as burning rocks and ash rained down. Over three thousand others had died.
Naples was out of range of the burning rocks and the river of fire, but panic grew as a dense black cloud drifted toward the city, occasionally flashing fire. By Wednesday morning it had blocked out the sun altogether.
People went through the streets shouting and weeping, or stood in the piazzas not feeling the cold of night or winter or the freezing tramontana that was blowing, so they wouldn't be crushed when their houses collapsed.
The wind changed and a scirocco brought rain that turned the ashes to mud and made the city streets impassable. The mud increased the horror and prevented the terrified people from taking shelter or preparing to meet the disaster at hand. In this moment of terror the cardinal archbishop of Naples had a brilliant idea. To take San Cennaro's head and blood in procession outside the city's eastern gate, toward Vesuvius' and wave them in the direction of the impending disaster. The effect of Gennaro's relics was miraculous. Manso reported that
as the holy relics were taken out of the cathedral the rain stopped completely . . . the people in the piazza clearly saw the glorious San Gennaro himself in his bishop's robes appear at the great window over the cathedral door, bless the people and then disappear. I didn't see him myself because as I said I was with the cardinal inside the doorway.
When the miraculous blood re-entered Naples on its way back through the Porta Capuana, the wind changed and people saw the fatal black cloud drift away from the city. Gennaro had saved Naples. His stocks peaked.
There are no fourth century records of an historical Gennaro. His life story was written several hundred years later and it described him as the young Christian bishop of Benevento, the hill city inland from Naples, during Diocletian's campaign of repression against the Christian movement. Visiting a fellow activist in prison in Pozzuoli in 305. Gennaro was himself arrested. He was sentenced, along with several others, to be torn to pieces by bears in the local amphitheatre. The governor being away on business, the sentence became a more perfunctory beheading, carried out near the sulphur pit outside Pozzuoli.
Gennaro was buried outside Naples and a hundred years later his remains, apart frorn his head and a couple of phials of blood, were moved to the paleo-Christian catacombs under the Capodimonte hill above the city. They were later srolen from the caves by the Lombard rulers of Benevento and eventually moved again to a monastery and ultimately lost from view. They were rediscovered by chance during some monastic renovations in 1480, in a lead-sealed marble urn with Gennaro's name on it. They were in Naples by 1497, in a crypt under the cathedral's altar. Gennaro's head and the phials of his blood, gathered up at the execurion scene in Pozzuoli, had been in Naples all along. In 1389, over a thousand years after his beheading, Gennaro's coagulated blood had suddenly liquefied, and belore long it was melting regularly twice a year.
Gennaro's blood now gained serious influence among the people in Naples. New practices in astrological prediction and magic divination grew up around its liquefaction. It was a process like the one which had grown up earlier around Virgil and his magic book. People in Naples could do without bread, or a house, or their health, but never without foretelling the future. Gennaro suited the times better than Virgil. Neapolitans understood a young man in trouble and they understood decapitation. Their relations with Gennaro became intimate, fraught, sometimes brutal and almost carnal. The church hierarchy hoped Gennaro's dried blood and the fixed cycle of its meltings might bring paganism under control and help the curia get a handle on proliferating magic practices. Neapolitans practised magic a lot, especially for sex, as Bruno knew very well and showed in Candleman.
Gennaro had already received a boost thirty years after his body rejoined his head. In 1527 he intervened decisively to end an epidemic brought on by French and Spanish fighting in the South. The Neapolitans promised Gennaro in return to build a splendid new chapel to house his relics. This took some organizing. The ecclesiastical machine considered Gennaro the church of Naples's gift to the universal counter-reformation... for the miracle of the blood, proof of divinity, but Naples wasn't having the church in control of Gennaro. The Deputation of the Treasure - the treasure being Gennaro's mortal remains and not the massive gold and silver objects that contained them, or the works of art that would surround them - was a lay body. In 1608 work began on the monumental new purpose- built chapel to house Gennaro's remains. It was the size of a substantial church, added on to the side of the cathedral. It took nearly thirty years to build and another ten were needed to finish the basic decoration. Building and painting were at their busiest when Vesuvius erupted, Gennaro saved Naples and Gennaromania reached a frenzy. Who was going to paint the Chapel of the Treasure?
Street Fight in Naples - Peter Robb (pp 218 - 222; Allen & Unwin; 2011)
San Gennaro: un mistero che divide da sempre fede e scienza
Dal 1389 il miracolo della liquefazione del sangue del santo si ripete tre volte all'anno. Se la scienza avanza dei dubbi, i napoletani non ne hanno affatto: sono convintissimi che tutto qui dipenda da lui. Dal Vesuvio ai gol allo stadio
di Clara Svanera
Napoli e san Gennaro sono un binomio indossulibile. Il santo non è solo il patrono della città, ma ne muove le fila, secondo la credenza popolare. Il miracolo dello scioglimento del sangue infatti è portatore di buon auspicio: un annata positiva nel raccolto, la visita di un personaggio importante, un successo calcistico allo stadio san Paolo sono merito di san Gennaro. Al contrario, un evento negativo, I'aumento della disoccupazione o addirittura una catastrofe naturale si additano come conseguenza del mancato miracolo del santo protettore. Qualche volta, per quanto raramente, è capitato anche che il sangue non si sia liquefatto. Per esempio, nel maggio 1973, quando Napoli fu colpita da un'epidemia di colera, e nel settembre 1980, due mesi prima del terremoto dell' Irpinia.
Il più seguito? Il 19 settembre
Tre sono i miracoli che san Gennaro compie ogni anno in tre momenti distinti e ricorrenti. Il prossimo in calendario è alla vigilia della prima domenica di maggio, che quest'anno cadrà sabato 2, o negli otto giorni successivi, in coincidenza con l'anniversario della traslazione delle reliquie del santo da Benevento, dove morì nel 305 d.C., a Napoli. Il più seguito dei miracoli, però, è quello del 19 settembre, anniversario del martirio e festa patronale della città, mentre l'ultimo si compie il 16 dicembre, data dell'eruzione del Vesuvio nel 1631. I tre miracoli consistono nella liquefazione del sangue del santo, conservato in due ampolle di vetro, delle quali una è piena per tre quarti e l'altra semivuota (pare che re Carlo III di Borbone, vissuto nel XVIII secolo, ne abbia portato il resto in Spagna). Le ampolle contenenti il sangue di san Gennaro, assieme ad altre sue reliquie, sono conservate in una teca della cattedrale di Napoli e sono oggetto di profonda venerazione. Tecnicamente il miracolo si compie quando il sangue, che di solito si presenta raccolto in grumi si scioglie e assume un colore rosso vivo. La folla invoca il santo affinché compia il miracolo, mentre il cardinale Crescenzio Sepe agita più volte le due ampolle. Non conta solo che il miracolo della liquefazione si compia, ma anche in quanto tempo ciò avvenga. Un tempo troppo lungo fa presagire avvenimenti sfavorevoli o addirittura catastrofici.
Benvoluto anche dai pagani
Si dice che Gennaro fosse nativo di Napoli anche se alcuni sostengono che venisse da Ioppolo, localiti calabrese in provincia di Vibo Valentia. A Napoli comunque visse fino al momento in cui fu eletto vescovo a Benevento. Qui fu benvoluto, ma quando l'imperatore Diocleziano >>>
firmò tre editti contro i cristiani che portarono a brutali persecuzioni, il vento cambiò. Fu allora che andò a Pozzuoli per portare conforto al diacono Sossio, incarcerato per avere rifiutato i riti pagani e officiato le funzioni religiose nonostante il divieto,
e in quella circostanza venne arrestato fu arrestato per aver rifiutato di abiurare Ia fede in Cristo e condannato a morte. Fu decapitato il 19 settembre 305 presso il Foro di Vulcano, alla Solfatara di Pozzuoli. Qui una certa Eusebia riempi due ampolle con il suo sangue, mentre le spoglie furono seppellite nell'Agro Marciano. Nel 431, le reliquie furono trasportate alle catacombe di Capodimonte e il sangue consegnato aI vescovo di Napoli. L'intera città gli divenne subito devota anche se non era ancora stato proclamato santo. ciò avvenne nel 1586 sotto papa Sisto V. Nel 472 i fedeli chiesero l'intercessione di Gennaro per ferma.re un'eruzione del Vesuvio in corso e pare che la preghiera sia stata accolta in quella data e in un evento del 512. Nel VI secolo fu costruita una chiesa in suo onore a Napoli, dove furono deposte le reliquie e il sangue e sulle cui fondamenta nel XIII secolo sorse il Duomo. Una parte di ossa fu poi trafugata e portata a Benevento, ma nel 1492 tutte le reliquie furono ricomposte nella cattedrale napoletana. Le due ampolle sono custodite in una nicchia con porte d'argento, nella Cappella del tesoro. Dal primo prodigio certificato del 17 agosto 1389, i miracoli si ripetono a cadenza regolare.
Che cosa dice la scienza
La liquefazione del sangue è stata oggetto di numerosi studi. Il più grande degli ostacoli riscontrati dagli scienziati che nei secoli si sono avvicendati per dare una risposta scientifica a un fenomeno apparentemente inspiegabile, è il fatto che le ampolle siano ermeticamente sigillate e quindi non sia mai stato possibile eseguire un vero test di laboratorio. Dal XIX secolo tra gli studiosi di scienze occulte si è fatta strada l'ipotesi che si trattasse in realtà >>>
di una sostanza tissotropica, e cioè capace di passare dallo stato solido a quello liquido e viceversa, solo sotto sollecitazioni fisiche o grazie a una fonte di calore. Una proprietà che il sangue non ha. In particolare si avanzava l' ipotesi che nelle ampolle ci fosse un gel a base di carbonato di calcio, sale da cucina e cloruro ferrico (presente in minerale vulcanico, la molisite), elementi di facile reperibilità già nel Medioevo, che avrebbero potuto essere mescolate ad arte da un alchimista dell'epoca. Le manipolazioni delle ampolle da parte del vescovo in attesa del miracolo potrebbero, secondo alcuni studiosi, giustificare la Iiquefazione. Tuttavia, I'esame spettroscopico, il solo possibile, condotto da un ricercatore di medicina dell'Università di Torino, ha confermato nel 1980 la presenza di emoglobina. Il fisico francese Michel Mitov, invece, nel suo libro Materia sensibile - Schiume, gel, cristalli liquidi e altri miracoli (Harvard University Press, 2012), ipotizza che il Iiquido, di natura tissotropica, contenga spermaceti, grasso estratto dai capodogli, e soluzione argillosa, dove è presente I'ossido ferrico. Il colore sarebbe conforme a quello del sangue e il fatto che ci sia dell'ossido ferrico potrebbe giustificare anche la presunta presenza di emoglobina. Il dubbio rimane.
A conforto della tesi miracolosa c'è da aggiungere anche un'altra coincidenza: non soltanto il sangue si liquefa, ma contemporaneamente al miracolo di Napoli, a Pozzuoli, la pietra conservata nella chiesa che si ritiene sorga nel punto esatto dove il santo è stato decapitato, diventa rosso sangue.
Dalla viva voce del cardinale
Il prodigio della liquefazione significa che il santo vuole bene a Napoli: << È segno della sua bontà e della sua misericordia e che san Gennaro è ancora vivo nel suo sangue e continua a proteggere Napoli e ascoltare le sue preghiere >>, dice il cardinale Sepe. Nessuna prova scientifica potrà mai distruggere una fede così forte.
Tutta la città in prccessione
La processione della vigilia della prima domenica di maggio, che quest'anno cadrà sabato 2, e chiamata "processione delle statue" e si snoda nel centro storico partenopeo. Il busto del santo, assieme alla teca con il sangue, parte dal Duomo e attraversando San Biagio dei Librai e Spaccanapoli, arriva alla basilica di santa Chiara. Questa processione è conosciuta anche come "processione degli infrascati", per la consuetudine del clero di mettere sul capo corone di fiori per proteggersi dal sole. Esse vengono ricordate con una corona d'argento sul trono dove è collocata la teca contenente il sangue del santo.
Gi sono anche san Luigi e santa Patrizia
San Gennaro non è il solo santo a Napoli il cui sangue si scioglie. In questa città si contano diverse ampolle sacre che contengono il sangue di santi, oggetto di prodigi. Nella Chiesa del Gesù Vecchio, per esempio, si conserva quello di san Luigi Gonzaga che si scioglie il 21 giugno, ricorrenza della sua morte avvenuta nel 1591. C'è poi san Giovanni Battista, il cui sangue, coagulato tutto l'anno, si liquefa il 29 agosto, giorno del suo martirio nel I secolo d.C. E ancora il sangue di san Lorenzo, che pure si scioglie ogni anno, il 10 agosto. lnfine c'è santa Patrizia, originaria di Bisanzio, protettrice delle partorienti. Le sue spoglie sono nel monastero di San Gregorio Armeno, in un'urna d'oro e d'argento, ornata di gemme. Il prodigio dello scioglimento del suo sangue va avanti da 1200 anni.
"Santi" numeri da giocare
La smorfia napoletana, cioè l'elenco dei numeri del Lotto (una serie che va da 1 a 90),
ognuno dei quali ha un significato e viene spesso associato all'interpretazione di un sogno, è uno dei cardini della superstizione locale. E naturalmente anche a san Gennaro ne sono associati alcuni, sistematicamente giocati in occasione dei prodigi del santo. San Gennaro acquista così un valore quasi esoterico e anche a seconda dell'esito dei suoi miracoli, sono puntate cifre e giocati numeri diversi. Quelli più frequentemente legati a lui sono: 9, 15, 18, 53, 55.
Airone, Aprile 2015
Mancano solo cinque giorni al concerto del grande violoncellista e compositore italiano Giovanni Sollima che ritorna a Sydney e si esibirà al Sydney Opera House domenica 10 luglio, in compagnia dell'Australian Chamber Orchestra. Incredibile ma vero: ci sono ancora biglietti disponibili quindi, se non l'avete ancora fatto, acquistatene uno subito cliccando qui!!! In basso: un articolo di giornale e interviste dedicati al simpaticissimo "Crazy Sicilian" e un assaggio della sua musica e del suo straordinario talento .
Is "crazy Sicilian" Giovanni Sollima the world's coolest musician?
A cellist who plays Hendrix and an instrument made from ice could be the coolest musician around.
For anyone who considers the cello a staid sort of instrument, modestly hugging the shoreline of the tune while its showier little sister, the violin, steals the limelight, think again.
Italian cellist Giovanni Sollima is a classical player with a rock star status; the Jimi Hendrix of the orchestra world who has breathed new life into an instrument that's been around for more than 300 years and turned it into something wicked. Under his rapidly scuttling fingers, the cello morphs from elegant old-timer into screaming banshee flinging electrical spangles at anyone in its wake.
Admirer Yo-Yo Ma, with whom he has performed, affectionately calls him a ''crazy Sicilian'' and the Australian Chamber Orchestra's Timo-Veikko Valve sums him up as ''definitely not your average cellist'', describing his playing as a ''full-blown cello orgasm''. Sollima could teach Woody Allen's Virgil Starkwell a thing or two about how to play in a marching band; he is prone to taking his instrument walkabout mid-recital - a habit he says is left over from days of practice when he'd fancy a cup of coffee or had to answer the doorbell and didn't want to stop playing.
As Sollima points out, the seated cellist is quite a modern invention; in the early 18th century when there were no mics and amps, it was common for musicians to move about to alter acoustics. ''Who knows what we will be doing with cellos 300 years from now,'' he says.
It is this restless curiosity that fuels his forays into ground-breaking territory. Like the time he performed in an igloo high up in the Italian Alps on a cello made of ice that a sculptor friend carved for him. ''The ice was very interesting; it made the sound much longer, very magical, but it is a moving organism, the notes change while you play.'' Fascinated by the experience, he keeps the cello in a freezer and plans to record the first of Bach's Cello Suites on it soon.
Sollima makes his debut with the ACO later this month on an instrument more suitable for the Australian climate: a 334-year-old dark brown creation by Francesco Ruggeri. The bow was custom-made, copied from a painting of the composer and virtuoso cellist Luigi Boccherini. His work is featured on a program which fuses music from the classical era (including Haydn's Cello Concerto in C) with that of the neo-Renaissance in the form of Respighi, and the modernity of Sollima's own compositions.
There are strong parallels between Boccherini and Sollima; both are Italians who composed, but predominantly earned their living as renowned cello virtuosos. ''Boccherini was very experimental, very new. He made a stack of cello music but he was very unlucky with publishers.'' Sollima describes him as visionary, lengthening the cello's fingerboard, incorporating Spanish folk music into his compositions. ''He was the rock star.''
Sollima pays tribute to the fellow Italian in his own work, The LB Files, a mini-dramatisation of the composer's life that embraces jazz, contemporary and rock. Unfortunately, Boccherini, like so many musicians of his day, ended his career in abject poverty. Sollima has been more fortunate, having regularly collaborated with artists as diverse as Ma (for whom he wrote a critically acclaimed double cello concerto) and American punk poet and artist Patti Smith. As a film composer he has written music for Wim Wenders and Peter Greenaway.
The son of a pianist, he was, by virtuoso standards, a latecomer to the instrument, being almost 10 when he took it up. After years of pleading he discovered a cello under the tree one Christmas Eve and couldn't wait to get started; his father had to call the teacher to the house that night to give him his first lesson. Despite his classical training, Sollima was soon dismantling barriers, playing artery-slicing Jimi Hendrix riffs instead of scales when his father was out of earshot.
''What I love about the cello is that you become part of the sound,'' he says, in his deeply lilting Sicilian accent, animated by the passion of his subject. ''The cello is the most connected instrument to the body. Part of the sound comes back at you and you feel it in the stomach; it is a very physical sensation. The cello makes a space for me like a room, and you open the window and let the sound out. The cello is my home.''
Kathy Evans (Sydney Morning Herald; April 5, 2014)
At Italia 500 we've been offering Italian courses, in Sydney, since 1995 and one of the most beautiful aspects of learning Italian is that it opens the door to a culture of unrivalled richness and diversity. In this blog we'll be sharing some of our favourite books, movies, places in Italy to visit, music, links to podcasts, information about local and international Italian themed events, and the odd "personal" view, in the hope that it will encourage you to delve further into a culture which continues to inspire us and millions of people all over the world.