Letter from Cividale

 

 For anyone who hasn’t been there, an excursion to Cividale del Friuli is obligatory, for Cividale is a megamuseum of medieval memorabilia.  The sarcophagus of Duke Gisulphus (d. AD 568)!  The altar of Duke Rachis (ruled 744-49)!  The Pax of Duke Ursus (c. 800)!  The pala of Patriarch Pellegrino (ruled, or reigned, or at least presided, 1193-1204)!   Jewish tombstones from the 13th century!   But all those wonders yield to the Tempietto, the chef d’oeuvre of Lombard art.

According to the learned guidebooks of Muirhead and Pillement, Cividale was settled by the Lombards in 568, and Alboino “made it the capital of the first Lombard duchy in Italy and gave it to his nephew Gisulfo.”   The Lombard civilization was celebrated for its artistic expression, culminating in the Tempietto, part of an 8th century Lombardic church.  It contains a sarcophagus that “may be that of the legendary  Queen Piltrude” – a legend unknown to me but I will surely Web check it at once.

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Note the elegant Lombard decoration of the arch, and especially the stucco female figures above: six of them, “clothed in robes with sharp folds, two wearing monastic dress, four wearing richly-embroidered robes and a crown on their heads”  (Pillement).  He goes on to say that they recall the (much later) statues at Chartres, but “their faces with their sweet expressions, are of an entirely different art.  These statues, which date from the 8th and 9th centuries, are among the masterpieces of Lombard art.”

Thomas B. Lemann

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