Thursday, October 03, 2013

Simone Saltarelli

For many Italians the name Simone Saltarelli is now associated with motorbikes (see him above)

But for others in medieval times  it had a different association. 

Simone Saltarelli (1261-1342) was from a distinguished family in medieval Florence. He was procurator general of the Dominicans then Bishop of Parma and latterly Archbishop of PIsa from 1323 to 1342

For medieval ecclesiastical historians he had a major role in the church politics of his day

As procurator general of the Dominicans, he had to present himself to the Papal Court at Avignon after Pope Clement V moved the Papal Court there in 1309, the start of the long "Babilonian Captivity"

It was Clement`s successor, Pope John XXII (pope from 1316 to 1334) who nominated Saltarelli bishop first of Parma then of Pisa

It was John XXII who condemned the Franciscan Spirituali with their support for absolute poverty. The claims of Michael of Cesena and other Franciscans were disputed by the Pope and the Dominicans

It is of course the background for the setting of Umberto Eco`s The Name of the Rose

In October 1327 the enemy of the Pope, Louis of Bavaria, entered PIsa. Saltarelli had to flee Pisa. In Pisa Cathedral Louis had Anti-pope Nicholas V declared Pope. On 19 February 1329 antipope Nicholas V  presided at a bizarre ceremony in the Duomo of Pisa, at which a straw puppet representing Pope John XXII and dressed in pontifical robes was formally condemned, degraded, and handed over to the secular arm (to be "executed").

For this Pisa was put under interdict

After Louis left Pisa, Saltarelli returned to restore order and persuaded the anti-Pope (a Franciscan) to renounce his claims

For modern art historians also Saltarelli  is an important figure in the Tuscan  art of his time

It was he who carried out a programme of restoration of the Dominican Church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. He had constructed the famous Spanish Chapel next to it. The frescoes in the Chapel were not commissioned until after Saltarelli`s death and were not completed until 1367

In  Andrea di Bonaiuto`s frescoes in the Spanish Chapel, Saltarelli is depicted in a place of honour

Here below we see Archbishop Saltarelli standing at the feet of Pope Innocent VI while admonishing Michael of Cesena and William of Occam. On either side of the Pope sit Cardinal Albornoz and  Charles IV of Luxembourg

Beside Saltarelli and beneath the feet of the Pope are the barking dogs, an allegory of the members of the Dominican Order (Domincani), the heresy hunters as modern popular historians like to characterise and mock them

Andrea di Bonaiuto (active 1343  - 1377)
Detail of Esaltazione dell'ordine domenicano
1365 - 7
Cappellone degli Spagnoli, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

In Pisa it was the Archbishop who commissioned the artist Buonamico Buffalmacco (circa 1290 – 1340) for the famous frescoes in the Campo Santo in Pisa: Il Trionfo della Morte; Il Giudizio finale e L'Inferno; and La Tebaide  (1330-1337)

Buonamico Buffalmacco
The Three Dead and the Three Living and The Triumph of Death
The Camposanto Monumentale, Pisa

Buonamico was a character and features in Boccaccio`s The Decameron as one of the characters in several tales, He was buried in Santa Maria Novella in Florence

In his Lives, Vasari (after narrating a tale about Buonamico and a Bishop`s monkey) says of the works in the Campsanto:
"The works of Buonamico, then, finding much favour with the Pisans, he was charged by the Warden of the Works of the Campo Santo to make four scenes in fresco, from the beginning of the world up to the construction of Noah's Ark, and round the scenes an ornamental border, wherein he made his own portrait from the life namely, in a frieze, in the middle of which, and on the corners, are some heads, among which, as I have said, is seen his own, with a cap exactly like the one that is seen above.  
And because in this work there is a God, who is upholding with his arms the heavens and the elements nay, the whole body of the universe Buonamico, in order to explain his story with verses similar to the pictures of that age, wrote this sonnet in capital letters at the foot, with his own hand, as may still be seen; which sonnet, by reason of its antiquity and of the simplicity of the language of those times, it has seemed good to me to include in this place, although in my opinion it is not likely to give much pleasure, save perchance as something that bears witness as to what was the knowledge of the men of that century: 
Voi che avisate questa dipintura 
Di Dio pietoso, sommo creatore, 
Lo qual fe' tutte cose con amore, 
Pesate, numerate ed in misura; 
In nove gradi angelica natura, 
In ello empirio ciel pien di splendore, 
Colui che non si muove ed e motore, 
Ciascuna cosa fece buona e pura. 
Levate gli occhi del vostro intelletto, 
Considerate quanto e ordinato 
Lo mondo universale; e con affetto 
Lodate lui che 1' ha si ben create; 
Pensate di passare a tal diletto 
Tra gli Angeli, dov' e ciascun beato. 
Per questo mondo si vede la gloria, 
Lo basso e il mezzo e 1' alto in questa storia.
And to tell the truth, it was very courageous in Buonamico to undertake to make a God the Father five braccia high, with the hierarchies, the heavens, the angels, the zodiac, and all the things above, even to the heavenly body of the moon, and then the element of fire, the air, the earth, and finally the nether regions ; and to fill up the two angles below he made in one, S. Augustine, and in the other, S. Thomas Aquinas.  
At the head of the same Campo Santo, where there is now the marble tomb of Corte, Buonamico painted the whole Passion of Christ, with a great number of figures on foot and on horseback, and all in varied and beautiful attitudes; and continuing the story he made the Resurrection and the Apparition of Christ to the Apostles, passing well.  
Having finished these works and at the same time all that he had gained Pisa, which was not little, he returned to Florence as poor as he had left it, and there he made many panels and works in fresco, whereof there is no need to make further record"

In The Triumph of Death we see the medieval contemplation of death as expatiated by Petrarch, a contemporary. In his Secretum meum 49 (c.1342-1343) Petrarch describes his vision of death which is uncannily like that depicted by Buonamico Buffalmacco:
"It is not enough to hear the name of death casually nor to briefly remember a death. 
One must linger longer and with fierce meditation consider separately each of the members of a dying person, the cold extremities, the breast in the sweat of fever, the side throbbing with pain in the nearness of death, the eyes sunken and weeping, every look filled with tears, the forehead pale and drawn, the cheeks hanging and hollow, the teeth staring and discoloured, the nostrils sunk and sharpened, the lips foaming, the tongues fouI and motionless, the palate parched and dry, the languid head and panting breast, the hoarse murmur and sorrowful sigh, the evil smell of the whole body, and above ail the horror of the totally estranged face." 
Francesco Petrarca, Secretum. (Rome: Archivio Guido Izzi, 1993) translated and cited in S. Y. Edgerton, The Heritage of Giotto's Geometry: Art and Science on the Eve of the Scientific Revolution, pp. 81-82.
Many scholars have associated Buffalmacco`s work with the occurrence of the Black Death in 1348. This view is no longer held. The work predates the Black Death by about a decade (c. 1336)

The contemplation of Death in what would see as "Gothic" was a feature of the time and pre-dated the great plagues which were a feature of the 14th century and which caused convulsions and upheavals in medieval society

In the work the messages on painted scrolls are emphatic in the meaning of the work. In one scene  a couple of Genii holding a scroll with the following inscription:
Ischenno di savere e di ricchezza,
Di nobilitate ancora e di prodezza,
Vale niente ai colpi di costei.... 
Knowledge and wealth
Nobility and valour
Means nothing to the ravages of death..

However one should not forget the other scenes in the other frescoes: the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension. And thereafter the Last Judgment with the promise of Eternal Life

It is these other scenes which are the antidote to the Despair and Depression depicted in The Triumph of Death

One of Saltarelli`s great accomplishments was the renovation of the Dominican church in Pisa: Saint Catherine of Alexandria. The church was founded prior to 1211

Saltarelli was responsible for the commissioning of the great facade. It was completed in 1326

The church is now a quiet one but still important. The tourists bypass it. They hasten on to the Camp dei Miracoli. They overlook an historical and artistic treasure

This great church is where Archbishop Saltarelli was interred.

His tomb is one of the great works of the age by two of the greatest sculptors:  Andrea Pisano and his son Nino Pisano. It is a work of that age. It is one of the great works of that particular time, a time which we now have forgotten 

Andrea Pisano ( c 1290 -  1348) and Nino Pisano (c 1315 – c 1370)
Monument for the tomb of Archbishop Simone Saltarelli
White marble
Chiesa di Santa Caterina d`Alessandria, Pisa

For Nino Pisano it was his greatest recorded and surviving work

The balance of the composition may not be of the best but the statuary is amongst the finest. 

In any event it is a complex work

On the base are three panels in relief, illustrating the dealings  of the Archbishop with Louis of Bavaria when he seized Pisa  by force. 

It is these events which are regarded as the highpoint of the Archbishop`s ecclesiastical and religious life.

He could have resisted by force. He did not. He left the city and there was no bloodshed.

He re-established the status ante quo peacefully and by negotiation

He repaired the split in medieval Christendom which a few decades later split again into the Western Schism with pope against antipope waged against each other.  There was of course a further split after the Council of Pisa in 1409

Above this level is the effigy of the Archbishop

The effigy lies behind a heavy colonnade of pillars  and arches, on each side of which are graceful angels holding back a curtain

From the ground you cannot see the Archbishop`s face.

On the next level the soul of the Archbishop is seen being carried by angels and  flanked by two intercessor saints: Saint Dominic and St Peter Martyr, two of the greatest of the Dominican saints

The Empyrean is the Madonna and Child flanked by angels, the hoped for destination of all human life

This type of Dominican architecture and sculpture is seen in earlier Dominican art: the tomb of Benedict XI in San Domenico in Perugia and in the Ark of St Peter Martyr in the Portinari Chapel in the Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio in Milan

It is the start of the use of the interior of churches as places of burial, a practice which was encouraged and became popular.

It was the way to memorialise individual human lives and an attempt to ensure prayers for the repose of souls after Death

It was also a way for the Church to remind its congregations of the end of human life and the importance of the life to come.

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