Fidenza, an itinerary to discover the works of Benedetto Antelami for Parma 2020+21

In Fidenza on Oct. 10, a new route to discover the works of Benedetto Antelami in the city is inaugurated.

Called Antelami in Fidenza. Reliving the Passio of San Donnino the initiative that the Diocese of Fidenza is promoting on the occasion of Parma Italian Capital of Culture 2020+21 to enhance the places and works of Benedetto Antelami (Valle d’Intelvi, c. 1150 - Parma, 1230) in the city. Fidenza Cathedral (at the time the city was called Borgo San Donnino) has on its façade a singular iconographic heritage attributed precisely to Antelami and his workshop. The works narrate the passio of Saint Donnino Martyr, patron of the diocese and the city, and recent restorations have made it possible to deepen our knowledge of them, especially from a historical and artistic point of view.

Antelami’s legacy is now being recounted in a new museum itinerary at the Diocesan Museum of Fidenza focused on the significance of the martyrdom of St. Donnino to rediscover it in a modern key, tracing its signs in the village born on the saint’s remains, in his inventiones and on his burials. The itinerary, curated by architects Manuel Ferrari and Barbara Zilocchi, with the collaboration of the director of the Diocesan Museum of Fidenza, Alessandra Mordacci, and with the support of Fondazione Cariparma, aims to bring visitors closer to the story of the martyrdom of St. Donnino and the foundation of the village on the martyrion. Donnino left the court of Emperor Maximian to serve Deo, and after a journey fraught with danger he was caught up with imperial soldiers and beheaded; miraculously, with his own head in his hand, he managed to reach the place of his burial across the river Stirone, on which the first church would be built. From here Borgo san Donnino, today Fidenza, was born. The martyr’s life, as mentioned, is recounted on the facade of the Cathedral by sculptures by Benedetto Antelami and his workshop in the early 13th century. Journey and flight, martyrdom and liberation,are the plots that flow in an iconographic tale of rare strength and beauty.

The new itinerary will tell all this cocn descriptive panels, sound installations and projections, starting Oct. 10, 2020. In the Diocesan Museum exhibit, a video will be shown illustrating the construction phases of the church, with contributions emerging from recent archaeological discoveries by Nadia Montevecchi and Barbara Zilocchi, while narrative voices will welcome visitors to introduce them to the precious Rhenish chalice of St. Donnino, the Madonna Enthroned by Antelami, preserved in the museum, and the baptismal font located on the second floor of the institution. On the path connecting with the Cathedral will be an exhibition of objects and manuscripts on the history of the foundation of Borgo San Donnino on the martyrion. From here, it will then be possible to reach the sacristy and, after a look at the fine furnishings and wooden ceilings, to reach the Cathedral’s raised chancel where, by the end of the year, the Christ Pantocrator now placed 10 meters high will be moved behind the high altar, at the base of the niche of the apsidal basin. Thanks to the authorization granted by the Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio for the provinces of Parma and Piacenza, the statue, of considerable size (131.5 x 60 x 3 0cm) and presumed weight of 523 kg, will be able to be admired up close for the first time in history. The work,of great interest,has been attributed by Carlo Arturo Quintavalle to the Master of the Reggio Emilia pulpit and of the tympanum with the deposition of the cross of Sant’Andrea in Vercelli.

The tour will continue in the first room of the north women’s gallery, where archival documents and descriptive panels will tell the story of the saint’s burials. In a second room of the women’s gallery, the artistic and theological narrative on the façade will be projected, which can be consulted thanks to a touch projection: visitors will be able to ’interrogate’ the iconographic scenes with a simple touch and read their description. Next, at the point where the women’s gallery opens onto the nave, some scale selections of the façade’s velarium, which was used as scaffolding covering during the restoration, will allow visitors to admire Antelami’s works vis a vis. Finally, visitors will be able to learn in detail about the life of Saint Donninus (from Maximian’s court, to his conversion and persecution, martyrdom, and inventio) told through projections that will alternate between the north and south women’s galleries. The route will end by descending down the staircase of the north tower, along which visitors will be able to pause in front of Bishop Garimberti’s chapel, and then flow into the interior of the Cathedral where they will be able to admire the two burials of the martyr Donnino: one, the older one, repurposed as the high altar; the other, the one dating back to the 15th century, recently moved from the crypt to the interior of the “Ferrata” chapel.

To enrich the experience there will then be musical moments and meetings with historians and art critics. Opening the lecture series will be historian Carlo Arturo Quintavalle, who on Oct. 8 will present in the cathedral the volume L’officina Benedetto Antelami della Cattedrale di Fidenza. Studies Research Restoration, edited by Barbara Zilocchi. Numerous scholarly talks will take place throughout the month of October, including the account of the birth of a locus sancti in the sculptures of the Cathedral facade (edited by Carlotta Taddei); the peculiarities of the very ancient chalice of San Donnino (edited by Alessandra Mordacci); the reconstruction of the phases of the Cathedral’s medieval building sites (edited by Nadia Montevecchi); the restoration of Antelami’s Madonna Enthroned (edited by Paola Franca Lorenzi), up to the dating of the early Christian sarcophagus, the first known burial of the martyr (edited by Roberta Conversi). On Sunday, Oct. 18 in the Cathedral, the Ensemble Oktoechos, one of Italy’s leading groups specializing in the musical repertoire of the Middle Ages, will instead hold the concert O viridissima virga. Medieval music in honor of the Virgin, reserving space for a final preciousness: the Antiphon of San Donnino, from a 13th-century codex.

For all information you can visit the website of the Diocesan Museum of Fidenza.

Pictured is a detail of Benedetto Antelami’s Madonna Enthroned.

Fidenza, an itinerary to discover the works of Benedetto Antelami for Parma 2020+21
Fidenza, an itinerary to discover the works of Benedetto Antelami for Parma 2020+21

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