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S. Salvatore di Montecorona

The Upper Church


[image ALT: A hall-like space, about 6 meters wide and 9 meters tall, with Gothic vaults but also round archways; at the far end, at the top of a staircase of about 10 steps, a smaller more purely Gothic space containing an altar under a pyramidal ciborium, partly surrounded by an ensemble of wooden choir stalls. It is the interior of the church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

The abbey church is on the so‑called Lombard plan: a long hall-like nave, and at the end of it a staircase up to the presbytery; thus providing space for a lower church or crypt. Lombard also the ciborium, or stone canopy, over the altar, but salvaged from the nearby rural church of S. Giuliano delle Pignatte. The heavy furniture on either side, by the way, turns out, when lit, to be some rather nice confessionals in faux-marquetry.


[image ALT: zzz. It is the choir loft in the upper church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

The 12c frescoes of the triumphal arch, as often, depict the Annunciation, with the angel on our left, Mary on the far right; in the quatrefoils between them, the Symbols of the Four Evangelists, and (just a guess, since two of the three in the center are lost) the three Persons of the Trinity.


[image ALT: zzz. It is the 8c ciborium in the church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]
		
[image ALT: zzz. It is a view of the interior of the church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]
		
[image ALT: zzz. It is a view of the interior of the church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

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

That 8c ciborium, one of the earliest items of church architecture in Umbria, is incised with loosely geometric and plant-inspired designs and entrelacs characteristic of the Lombard style; and on one side, two peacocks, symbol of Christ's resurrection. (The horizontal thumbnails click open.)

Fellow photographers will notice the extraordinary color difference lighting makes; all four sides are the same color, more or less the light grey you see in the left.

This Gothic church, alas, has been completely reworked in later centuries, and its appearance today owes a lot to the 18c, or even much later. In utter contrast, thus, to the lower church, this space has lost its structural embellishments, and relies on bits and pieces of added decoration to relieve the sterility:


[image ALT: zzz. It is the choir loft in the upper church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

The inscription on the 18c rococo choir loft is appropriate:
In tympano et choro laudate Deum, "With drum and chorus praise ye the Lord."


[image ALT: zzz. It is the choir loft in the upper church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

This late medieval painting of the Madonna delle Grazie has a definite scholarly tint to it. The communion chalice and host suggest theology, and the four haloed old men with their books — another guess of mine — must be, not the Evangelists, but the Doctors of the Church: Gregory, Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine.


[image ALT: zzz. It is a 'pietre dure' altar in the upper church of S. Salvatore di Montecorona near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

An altar in pietre dure, that is, in finely inlaid marquetry — real, this time, although one does often see painted imitations here too — of colored stones (see a detail here). Here is where I wish I knew the story: although it all looks very decorative, the three stylized mountains at the bottom are very common in many coats of arms — with the crown above them, they spell Monte Corona of course — and the lizard just cries for an explanation.


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Page updated: 25 Mar 09