Frescos of the Abbey Monte Oliveto Maggiore

Frescos of the Abbey Monte Oliveto Maggiore
Frescos of the Abbey Monte Oliveto Maggiore

In the year 1497 the Renaissance painter Luca Signorelli, famous for his religious paintings, was commissioned to paint the frescoes to decorate the main cloister of the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore in the Tuscany. But the truth is that here he only did a small part of the work, and a year later he left it.


Frescos of the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore

In this way that unfinished work ended up in the hands ofGiovanni Antonio Bazzi, better known at the time asIl Sodomagiven his homosexuality of the. An artist who worked here between 1505 and 1510.

So this artist concluded an entire pictorial cycle that narrates the entire life of Saint Benedict following above all the story of Pope Gregory the Great. In fact, the pontiff had been the founder of this Benedictine abbey located in the town of Asciano, and around the end of the 6th century he wrote the biography of that monk, including it in his larger workDialogues where many other hagiographies of saints of Italian origin appear.

Like that book, the paintings in Il Sodoma are to the greater glory of the saint and of the Rule of Saint Benedict based on the “ora et labora”. That is to say, the first time that monks were said to have to combine the contemplative and prayerful life with manual work. And that looks very clearin these fresco paintings.

For example there are scenes in which he looks like Saint Benedict of Nursia and his first community raises the Monastery of Montecassino, a truly momentous event in the history of the Church during the Middle Ages.

Even Il Sodoma represents in these frescoes the daily life of the community of monks. And he does it with all kinds of details, as can be seen in the scene that we show you here, where he discovers the friars sitting at the refectory table. And we see how the painter has stopped to capture with care the tableware or the food of the monks. Of course, not as they were in the sixth century when Saint Benedict lived, but as they were in the sixteenth century when he did the work. That is why they are very interesting graphic documents to know the daily life of these communities.

Although not everything is a historical document. Of course the paintings as well as the story of Gregory the Great are conceived as an ex altation of Saint Benedict. That is why there is no chapter of the paintings that is not linked to some supernatural event attributed to the saint. Like when he resurrected a dead monk during the construction of the monastery

In short, this is a good collection of religious painting from the early Cinquecento.

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