Bitonto Pulpit

Bitonto Pulpit
Bitonto Pulpit

The medieval cathedral of Bitonto, located in the south of Italy in the region of Puglia, preserves an interesting collection of religious art across the forms of the Romanesque and Gothic. And among all this artistic legacy, the bas-reliefs that can be seen on the stairs leading up to the cathedral pulpit stand out.


Pulpit of Bitonto Cathedral

These are reliefs carved in the year 1229. A date that is known exactly thanks to the fact that there is an inscription that also reads that the author of such carving was a certain Nicolá.

To understand this image, we must take into account the historical context of that moment, a time when a king of Italian origin had become emperor of Germany. It wasFrederick IIand his dominions reached from the North Sea to the Mediterranean coast. But he wasn't content with that, and he was active in the Crusades that brought medieval knights to the Middle East.

In fact, in the year this pulpit was carved, Frederick II had returned to this region of Apulia after the negotiated capture of Jerusalem. And both that episode of taking the most revered city of Christianity, and his confrontations with the Pope of Rome are alluded to in the bas-relief, since the figures represented are identified with Frederick II himself accompanied by his ancestors. Yhis descendant, his son Conrado. However, although this is the most widespread interpretation, it is true that not all historians agree with it.

In addition, in those times there was a legend that Federico II and his family were distant descendants of Jesse, a character in the Bible who was in turn an ancestor of Jesus himself. That is to say, Federico was given a range of almost mythical character and related neither more nor less than with Jesus Christ. Hence, Federico II (the third character in ascending order) appears not only crowned but also with the sign of the cross on his neck.

The rest of the figures areFrederick Barbarossa, sitting on a throne, andHenry VI, that is, grandfather and father of the protagonist, which has his son Conrado at the top. By the way, the latter and Federico II are holding with their right hands a fruit that hangs from the arcades. Some arches that represent the tree of knowledge, a knowledge that should lead to peace.

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