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Not Just Another Pretty Church


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The 12c church of S. Maria Assunta in Ponte (Umbria): the interior.

Ponte's church of S. Maria is not as simple as it looks. One of the first surprises to strike the visitor is that archway at the end of the hall, just before the altar. It's in fact vaulted by a beautiful if somewhat primitive dome:

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[image ALT: A series of pointed arches at various angles. It is a view of the interior of the church of S. Maria in the town of Ponte, Umbria (central Italy).]
Mind you before we walked up to the choir and saw the dome, we discovered that the church is asymmetrical: to our left, the S wall, but on the N side, there's an entire aisle behind those arches, with frescoed walls and ceilings, and from which we have the classic view seen to the right. Notice that the Gothic look of the photograph is pure illusion: circular Romanesque arches project and intersect on the camera lens to make a pointed arch, but it's not there.

None of the paintings on the S wall or in the choir is outstanding, but a careful visitor looks at everything, so here's your chance:

The more interesting items, however, get their own pages. Even if Ponte was a regional capital of sorts during much of the early Middle Ages, accounting for such an impressive church in what is now a small village, S. Maria has more than her share of unusual art:


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Finding the four evangelists depicted on the four compartments of a Gothic vault is nothing to wonder at: examples abound throughout Europe. On this 15c ceiling, though, we see something unusual. (In my photo of the interior above, the vault roofs the space thru the first arch on the right.)


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You saw the beautiful rose window on the façade of the church, I hope — in the real church of course you couldn't possibly have got this far without seeing it — but it reappears, sort of, on an interior wall; not a mystery, since either of two explanations will do nicely, but it's still a pretty rare sight.


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The Holy Trinity, on the other hand, is a mystery, and one central to Christianity; so though it's difficult to get it across to people, it's important to try: here's one way. Once again, an unusual sight.


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Baptismal fonts, which after all are only large stone bowls, very often incorporate pre-Christian remains. The baptismal font of S. Maria di Ponte, then, is not so much a mystery as a small puzzle: Roman or Egyptian? and why?


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Site updated: 12 Jul 04