Thursday, 2 April 2009

Santa Reparata

Santa Reparata preceded the current cathedral, the well-known and oh-so-kitschified Santa Maria del Fiore. In 1296, the construction of Sta. Maria del Fiore began, staring with the apses, but the old church remained for almost80 years more, until 1374, when it was torn down to make space for the new cathedra.

The first phase is vaguely dated 'after 313', meaning after the Edict of Milan and 'somewhere between the 5th and 6th centuries, based on the style of floor mosaic, the only remaining element of the paleochristian cathedral. The mosaic includes a list of donors and the amounts they provided - I wonder whether there was some tax exemption on pious gifts, too? and an image of a peacock, a symbol of eternity. The eternal nature of peacock, I hear, is based on the fact that peacock meat lasts longer than other meat, which was important feature before the advent of fridges. My hunter uncle, however, says that he has eaten a peacock once, or rather gagged over a roasted peacock, because it tastes awful. Which may explain why would it last for so long but I'm not able to judge the early Medieval desire of proteins.
In 869, the bishop Andrea went to Lucca on an imperial mission and he might have got toknow the rare cult of Santa Reparata there but he hasn't brought any relics – after all, the martyr of Antiochia may never have existed. Hardly anything can be related to the activity of Andrea, more stable ground resurfaces only in the 11th century when the church was rebuilt. What is preserved are the massive pillars of the nave and the crypt that was however deprived of its vault. Now, only one column remained, with a classicizing capital which is a good example of how Romanesque art recycled the antique elements: the capital employs the elements of a frieze.

The last reconstruction of Santa Reparata took place in the late 12th/early 13th centuries. New facade was created, with mosaic inlays in red, black and gold – a Roman thing, in Tuscany, inlays were to use yet for quite some time only the white and green marbles of Carrara and Prato respectively. Some of the fragments were found during the reconstruction in the late 1960's – turned upside down, they served as a pavement.

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