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Sacred Girdle of the Virgin

(698 words)

Author(s): Flavio Boggi
The girdle that the Virgin is believed to have bestowed on Saint Thomas at the moment of her Assumption is Prato’s most important relic. It was supposedly bequeathed to the town’s Pieve of Santo Stefano in around 1174, but the earliest surviving secure references to its existence date to the 1200s. By the fourteenth century it was the object of one of northern Tuscany’s most popular cults with its own feast day on September 8 (the day of the Nativity of the Virgin), established by public decree …

Italian Gothic Architecture

(1,023 words)

Author(s): Flavio Boggi
In Italy the Gothic style in architecture had to be mediated through an older and deep-rooted attachment to the peninsula’s classical heritage. As a consequence, northern European modes of construction and models of decoration were often radically transformed to suit local architectural traditions and indigenous design practices. The new style first appeared in the early thirteenth century alongside the expansion of the religious orders. The earliest Gothic cathedrals, meanwhile, were erected in…

Silver Altar, Pistoia Cathedral

(809 words)

Author(s): Flavio Boggi
The Silver Altar of Saint James in Pistoia’s cathedral of San Zeno is a magnificent ensemble of embossed silver plaques and numerous statuettes, many of them gilded, which increased in size and complexity between the late thirteenth and the fifteenth century. For the many pilgrims who deviated from the Via Francigena, the road to Rome, to visit the town, the altar was the sumptuous focal point of the now-destroyed Chapel of Saint James the Greater in the cathedral. Constructed in the western end…

Italian Romanesque Architecture

(980 words)

Author(s): Flavio Boggi
The Romanesque architecture of Italy is firmly rooted in the practices and conventions of the Early Christian era. While a strong dependence on traditional forms can be discerned, the churches of the Italian peninsula and surrounding islands nevertheless display marked regional differences. Such variety grew out of the rich diversity of influences and competing interests of the many city-states and princely dominions of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The efficacy of saints, especially urban…

Reliquary of St James

(662 words)

Author(s): Flavio Boggi
The gilded silver reliquary of Saint James the Greater in Pistoia (Museo della Cattedrale di San Zeno) was executed in 1407 to accommodate a piece of the head of the apostle and other sacred items. The relic had arrived in Tuscany from Santiago de Compostela in around 1145 and quickly became Pistoia’s most prized possession. The circumstances of its arrival were recorded in local hagiographic writings, including the narratio of Cantarinus of Pisa. They claim that Bishop Atto of Pistoia had procured the precious fragment for the town with the help of Rainerius, m…

Pisa Cathedral

(941 words)

Author(s): Flavio Boggi
Pisa was among the Italian peninsula’s most significant cultural, economic, and religious centers in the Middle Ages. Its commercial fortunes and political ascendancy were inextricably bound up with its seafaring traditions and its domination of lucrative trade routes throughout the Mediterranean. Such ventures led to contact with the Holy Land and involvement in the first crusade. An important destination for pilgrims, Pisa was both a coastal stop on the sea route to Rome and a point of departu…

Pistoia Churches

(941 words)

Author(s): Flavio Boggi
The arrival of a fragment of Saint James' head around 1145 transformed Pistoia into one of the most important centers of pilgrimage in northwest Tuscany. Devotion to the apostle, whose relic was enshrined in the Chapel of Saint James in the city’s cathedral, brought the Tuscan town into close contact with Santiago itself as well as with Rome and Jerusalem. The rapid growth of the cult may account for the widespread rebuilding or renovation of Pistoia’s major churches, including the cathedral, fr…