October 12, 2017 – Thursday, Arezzo- Excursion #2
The van and driver picked us up in the morning for a drive to the northeast to La Verna, where the sanctuary of St. Francis of Assisi is located. The last distance was on a narrow mountainous road through a woodsy area. We thought it ironic that no animals were allowed. The physical beauty of the sanctuary and the vista from atop 3700 ft elevation is exquisite.
The sanctuary was donated to St. Francis in 1213 by Count Orlando Cattani. The grotto where St. Francis slept and the rock upon which he slept can also be viewed.
“The Sanctuary of La Verna, located a few kilometers from Chiusi della Verna (Arezzo Region), in the National Park of Casentino Forests, Mount Falterona and Campigna, is famous for being the place where St. Francis of Assisi would receive the stigmata on September 14, 1224. Built in the southern part of Mount Penna at 1,128 metres (3,701 ft) high, the Sanctuary is home to numerous chapels and places of prayer and meditation. In August 1921 Pope Benedict XV elevated the church to the status of minor basilica.” Wikipedia
in addition, the della robbia artwork inside the sanctuary matches the physical beauty of the outdoors.
“Luca della Robbia (1399/1400–1482) was an Italian sculptor from Florence. Della Robbia is noted for his colorful, tin-glazed terracotta statuary, a technique which he invented and passed on to his nephew Andrea della Robbia and great-nephews Giovanni della Robbia and Girolamo della Robbia. Though a leading sculptor in stone, he worked primarily in terracotta after developing his technique in the early 1440s. His large workshop produced both cheaper works cast from molds in multiple versions, and more expensive one-off individually modeled pieces.
The vibrant, polychrome glazes made his creations both more durable and expressive. His work is noted for its charm rather than the drama of the work of some of his contemporaries. Two of his famous works are The Nativity, c. 1460 and Madonna and Child, c. 1475. In stone his most famous work is also his first major commission, the choir gallery, Cantoria in the Florence Cathedral (1431–1438).
Della Robbia was praised by his compatriot Leon Battista Alberti for genius comparable to that of the sculptors Donatello and Lorenzo Ghiberti, the architect Filippo Brunelleschi, and the painter Masaccio. By ranking him with contemporary artists of this stature, Alberti reminds us of the interest and strength of Luca’s work in marble and bronze, as well as in the terra-cottas always associated with his name.” Wikipedia
This is definitely worthy of a car and driver for a day trip. Or, stay at an agritourismo nearby: Agritourismo Sassi -http://www.agriturismoilsasso.it/tuscany-tours-holiday/st-francis-of-assisi-la-verna-sanctuary-hermitage-of-cerbaiolo-and-montecasale/
On the drive we visited the birthplace of Michelangelo, also the home of his youth in Caprese, Italy. He had a solid “upper middle class” upbringing. Some works and those of others are displayed here.
We also stopped to view the the fresco painting by Piero Francesco, Madonna Parto, also commonly known as the pregnant Madonna. Here’s some basic information from Wikipedia.
“The famous work showing this subject is a fresco painting by the Italian Renaissance master Piero della Francesca, finished around 1460. It is housed in the Museo della Madonna del Parto of Monterchi, Tuscany, Italy.
Piero della Francesca finished it in seven days, using first-rate colors, including a large extent of blu oltremare obtained by lapis lazuli imported from Afghanistan by the Republic of Venice.
The fresco was at one time located in Santa Maria di Momentana (formerly Santa Maria in Silvis), an old country church in the hilltown of Monterchi. The edifice was destroyed in 1785 by an earthquake and the work was detached and placed over the high altar of the new cemetery chapel; in 1992 it was moved to the Museo della Madonna del Parto in Monterchi. The work was attributed to Piero della Francesca only in 1889. Its dating has been the subject of debate, ranging from 1450 to 1475. The 16th century artist and writer Giorgio Vasari wrote that it was completed in 1459, when Piero della Francesca was in Sansepolcro for his mother’s death.”
Partners in adventure shown below are Nancy and Beth who, 50 years ago, spent a college year in Spain where they met. Nancy lives in North Carolina and Beth in Oklahoma. Mary and Andrea are mother and daughter from NC.
There have been so many wonderful days on this trip, but so far with another week to go, this is a favorite. When you plan a trip to Italy put this on your travel path.