Postcard from Modena, Italy: Watch out for the devil in the architectural details

…monstrous beings of every kind, sinful creatures threatening the spiritual path of humankind…. Images emphasize the symbolic meaning of the church door, which separates the believers gathered inside, from those standing outside, who may fall prey to the Devil.”

UNESCO Guide to Visiting the Cathedral of Modena

Fortunately, if one does not want to pass through the doorway with the most monsters, the Cathedral dominating two plazas in Modena has numerous entrances with other lessons. Sculptural reliefs clustered around and above the doors teach the Biblical lesson of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden; the story of the city’s patron saint, Saint Geminiani, who died shortly before the year 400 and whose remains are housed in the crypt; seasonal harvests; and Arthurian legends.

Many of these were the work of sculptor Wiligemo, who worked simultaneously with the architect Lanfranco – “the choice of architect had been miraculously inspired by God.” Construction of the Romanesque Cathedral began in 1099, and it was consecrated in 1184. UNESCO describes the result as:

a magnificent example of Romanesque Art which astonished society at the time and still fills us with wonder….

As construction work took more than a century, some interior sculptural work was designed and completed by Campionesi masters.

The soaring Cathedral and the Ghirlandina Tower on its side are among the beautiful buildings in Modena compelling one to linger, meandering its relatively tourist-free streets and plazas.

2 thoughts on “Postcard from Modena, Italy: Watch out for the devil in the architectural details”

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