Anne's Blog

In the Orvieto Duomo, a Homecoming

Date: February 28, 2020 - categories: , , , , - 2 Comments

For over a century the majestic marble statues of the Apostles and beloved Orvieto patron saints were exiled from their home, the magnificent Duomo.

In 1897, the sixteen Mannerist/ Baroque statues lining the nave – sculpted by various artists from the late 16th to early 18th centuries – had been removed during a “restoration” intended to render the Cathedral ambience more austere, fully medieval.

The statues – scattered in different locations – reunited in the Cathedral in November, 2019.

They stand proudly in front of the columns like sentinels leading us towards the altar…..

….and to the statues near the altar.

Since March, 2019, the early 17th-century masterpiece, Annunciazione of the proto-baroque sculptor, Francesco Mochi flanks the altar on the left side. The young Virgin seems to be withdrawing in confusion and trepidation from the announcement of the Angel Gabriel.

And steps away from la Vergine is the late 16th-century stunning Pieta’ of Ippolito Scalza. When sharing Orvieto splendors with tour guests, I don’t overlook the other Duomo treasures logicamente: the superb Renaissance frescoes of Luca Signorelli frescoes in the San Brizio chapel and the Holy Corporal of the 13th-century miracle of Bolsena.

But I save Scalza’s Pieta’ for last.

We each need time to take in the wonder. Michelangelo’s Pieta’ astounds. Scalza’s overwhelms. This is a Virgin who can weep no more.

Her brow is furrowed in pain and eyes are swollen from all the tears shed. Nicodemus, holding the pliers he has used for the de-nailing in one muscled hand, the ladder in the other, gazes down at Christ in pained resignation.

Mary Magdalen tenderly rests her cheek on one of Christ’s lifeless hands as she cradles one of his feet.

…and those veins in Christ’s hands, the muscles in his arms, the veins and muscles and bones in his legs. In front of this Pieta, a doctor in one of my tour groups years ago had murmured, “Anatomically perfect.”

On a January visit, I was glad to see the statues lining the nave. For the first time.

And what joy to see Ippolito’s Pieta’. Yet again.


A must for every stop in Orvieto.

Click here to read about good eating near the Duomo

Read about the joys of Orvieto’s Umbria Jazz Winter


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