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Monday 14 August

Umm, the perils of not reading your guidebooks on the spot; fortunately, I eventually did — to realize I'd missed the one fantastic thing in town; this morning at 8:30 I went back to the Basilica S. Nicola and saw it, with a vengeance.

I was right, that the actual church of S. Nicola was nothing terrific; but it's attached to two cloisters (13c and 15c respectively, both much reworked, and only the larger earlier one really of interest), a chapel housing the two arms of S. Nicola — an explanatory inscription, 19c, only succeeds in raising all kinds of odd questions (stating that 40 years after he died, when they chopped his arms off, nice fresh blood flowed; that these arms foretell calamities; and that they are now "more elegantly" housed) — a crypt with the rest of him, and finally the Cappellone: a single room in which I stood for just over 3 hours.

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S. Nicola di Tolentino: the NE corner of the Cappellone.

I was very surprised to find that this large frescoed room is open to any kind of photography, including flash. I was only very slightly less surprised at the extraordinary beauty of the chapel, not only from the standpoint of draftsmanship and expressiveness and colors (restored 1990), but also and especially the intelligence and cohesiveness of the iconography: it's a truly marvelous space, one of the great sights of Italy, and I'm very very glad I came here. (I also took over 3 rolls of film of it, toss in another roll for the rest of the church).

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Detail of the S wall: the sleeping disciple.

As a bonus — by way of a sort of thank you, I went and found the first friar who'd let me in, to show him a possible discovery (or certainly, at least, an interpretation of mine of one of the frescoes); he brought in another, we talked iconography, and when I mentioned how wonderfully the room could be read both horizontally and vertically, he in turn went and got the Father Superior, who — and of course I knew nothing of any of this — had written a bit in this sense, towards an interpretation of the Cappellone, which was published as part of the proceedings of a conference — he gave me an offprint, which I wound up reading in the chapel as long as I had the opportunity; needless to say, I was delighted that someone else (with better credentials!) had read the chapel like me: in addition he had an idea about the E wall, where I was at sea; both of us remain stumped by the female saints' medallions on the S wall . . . .

After this, what remained to see (the larger cloister, mostly) was an anticlimax, on the other hand the friars run a scholarly bookstore on the Marche — books, proceedings, guides, monographs on small towns, their medieval and occasionally Roman remains, etc. I bought 145ML of stuff — Father Bruno (Silvestrini) my second friar had already given me a book on the Via Lauretana and a CD on Sarnano produced a few years ago by their APT and now unavailable — so that my knapsack is now pretty heavy. I'd had the idea first to walk to Treia, but nixed that last night because short of walking a total of 30 km I prolly wouldn't have any way of getting out of Treia: I'd have to walk on to Macerata for my train — additionally unsatisfactory because that would leave me having been somewhere (Macerata) but not really, rather to its train station — i.e., I'd have "been" to Macerata but not really, rather like my first time in Fabriano in 1998.

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Page updated: 5 Aug 12