Postcard from Bergamo, Italy: A skeletal glance at her churches and religious art

Continuing on a sped-up photographic post-mortem of our visit to Bergamo this past summer….

These randomly combined snapshots are assembled primarily from her Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Alexander, a Roman soldier beheaded on this spot in 303 when the emperors created many martyrs in their efforts to purge their legions of all Christians; a baptistery first constructed in 1340, deconstructed but saved three centuries later and then finally reassembled across from the Cathedral another two centuries later; and the adjacent Colleoni Chapel, a church and mausoleum with distinctive marble patterns and a rose window built by the Colleoni family in the late 1400s. Plus, some other church images and religious art from Bergamo’s museums.

Apologies to Bergamo and artists including Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Oh, and to San Alessandro, for forgetting to mention flowers sprang up and bloomed from the blood shed during his martyrdom.

Postcard from Ravenna, Italy: ‘We three kings of Orient are?’

Detailed wish lists for newborns are commonplace online, but aromatic resins must have fallen out of popularity. Maybe because frankincense and myrrh are not stocked by retailers such as Babies ‘R’ Us. Most parents of today would welcome gold though.

These are the gifts presented in the manger by the three kings from the east who followed the star. The Mister’s mother, Virginia Hornor Spencer (1924-2000), would unroll handsome gold banners featuring the kings each year for the holidays, launching the annual trivia quiz to recall the names of the wise men.

The photo above eliminates the challenge by labeling them: Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar. In this mosaic in Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, the kings are followed by a parade of 22 virgins.

This church was constructed for Theodoric the Great (493-526), who, in addition to his own baptistery, wanted a private Arian chapel near his palace. He is credited with commissioning the top row of prophets lining the walls. Some of his Arian Christian mosaics were altered after the Byzantine branch of the Catholic Church recaptured Ravenna from what they considered barbaric heretics. The parades of the virgins and martyrs were added by the more mainstream Catholics.

Saint Apollinaris was an early bishop of Ravenna who supposedly suffered through a torture and release program practiced by Roman emperors against the early Christians. He endured beatings, hackings by knives, forced walks over hot coals, time in the dungeon and numerous expulsions from Ravenna before his final capture resulted in wounds from which he did not recover.

Around the year 900, the martyr’s relics were moved to this church, which was renamed in his honor with the “Nuovo” tag to distinguish it from the first church to house his remains as it was near the sea and prone to raids by pirates. Most of Saint Apollinaris’ parts are divided between the two Apollinare churches of Ravenna.

The cylindrical bell tower was added in the 9th or 10th century, and the marble porch was tacked onto the basilica in the 16th century. The altar and its dome were altered much later.

Postcard from Parma, Italy: Baptistery takes on soaring height

The soaring height of the Baptistery of Parma makes it a striking addition to the huge plaza fronting the Cathedral. The exterior of the Romanesque and Gothic structure is octagonal and is softly colored with bands of pink stone quarried from the area of Verona. A row of animals, some believable and some fanciful, add a whimsical touch to the structure’s surfaces.

The Baptistery was commissioned in 1196, with Benedetti Antelami generally receiving credit for both the architectural and much of the sculptural design. Restoration has revealed that his sculptures in the lunettes crowning the entrances were polychrome.

Inside, the hexagon is farther divided into 16 arches. Among the themes reflected by the rows of sculpture is the personification of the seasons of the year.

Antelami devoted more than two decades to working on the Baptistery, but it was not completed until after his death around the year 1230.