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The Miracle Vault of S. Salvatore

18c Votive Frescoes in the Lower Church of the Abbey of Montecorona


[image ALT: zzz. It is a painted ceiling in the lower church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

"Miracle Vault" is not any kind of official name for this little painted ceiling — it measures about 2 x 2½ meters — but it seems appropriate, and the artist must surely have had something like it in mind. In the groin vault immediately in front of the main altar, amid some of the most charming painted flowers to be seen anywhere in Umbria (showing, incidentally, that they'd seen some good 17c or 18c French painting), they've given us four vignettes of daily life gone awry, each of them set right again by the intervention of the Virgin Mother and her Child. The scenes themselves, though in the tradition of folk art and ex‑votos (see for example the ex‑votos in the Museo di S. Francesco in Trevi or those at Madonna dei Bagni), are treated with a bit more sophistication than we normally see.

Taking you clockwise around the vault:


[image ALT: zzz. It is a detail of a painted ceiling, depicting a miracle of the Virgin, in the lower church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

The fight scene is as unrealistic as they get, since no man with the advantage of a rifle would ever fight this close to a guy with a knife; but the theme of a heavenly appearance quelling a disorder is not uncommon (see for example the famous fresco in the church of S. Ventura in Spello, just 50 km south of here).


[image ALT: zzz. It is a detail of a painted ceiling, depicting a miracle of the Virgin, in the lower church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

A chariot accident right outside the gates of what might possibly be Umbertide: allowing for artistic license, the octagonal cupola of S. Maria della Reggia is pretty clear, and the other belfry might be that of S. Giovanni, destroyed during World War II. As for the walls, Umbertide, like several Umbrian towns, lost them in the 19c.


[image ALT: zzz. It is a detail of a painted ceiling, depicting a miracle of the Virgin, in the lower church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

A man gives thanks for being cured of his lameness.


[image ALT: zzz. It is a detail of a painted ceiling, depicting a miracle of the Virgin, in the lower church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

My favorite: two Franciscan brothers meet with a runaway horse; one of them is concussed, and the other one appears to have lost his head: but Mary and her Son watch over them. A runaway horse, since the friars with their vow of poverty would neither have owned one nor been riding one; and they're hardly dressed for it.


[image ALT: A painting of zzz. It is a detail of a painted ceiling, in the lower church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]
		
[image ALT: A painting of a stalk with two lily blossoms and another with what appear to be seven small carnations. It is a detail of a painted ceiling, in the lower church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]
		
[image ALT: A painting of a carnation and a tulip. It is a detail of a painted ceiling, in the lower church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]
		
[image ALT: A painting of a closed tulip and a carnation. It is a detail of a painted ceiling, in the lower church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]
		
[image ALT: A painting of zzz. It is a detail of a painted ceiling, in the lower church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

A sampler of the flowers;
each one opens much larger in a separate window.


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Page updated: 18 Aug 05