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The Canopy of Holiness at the Misericordia in Florence and its sources (Part One).


Who could ever be hard or envious enough to fail to praise Pippo the architect on seeing here [the recently completed dome of Florence Cathedral,] such a large structure, rising above the skies, ample to cover with its shadow all the Tuscan people, and constructed without the aid of centering or great quantity of work? Since this work seems impossible of execution in our time... it was probably unknown and unthought of among the Ancients... As you work from day to day, you persevere in discovering things through which your extraordinary genius acquires perpetual fame. (1)

Leon Battista Alberti's startling dedication introducing the vernacular edition of his treatise On Painting to an architect, his friend Filippo Brunelleschi, never fails to mystify. Writing around 1435, Alberti concluded his prologue by requesting Brunelleschi's editorial assistance and, like a respectful pupil humbled before a great master, begging his approval of the essay that follows. Some years ago, architectural historian Christine Smith asked, "Why should a treatise on painting be dedicated to an architect? Why is Alberti's only specific example of the revival of culture in quattrocento Florence Brunelleschi's dome for the Cathedral?" (2) To these compelling questions various scholars, including Professor Smith, have supplied erudite and reasonable answers that likely at least approach the truth. (3) Yet Alberti's very words also suggest that, beyond both theoretical considerations and simple appreciation for his friend's engineering achievement, his admiration may have been sparked by something more fundamental that all persons sensitive to architecture intuitively experience: the distinctiveness of form and, simultaneously, the wonderment, the feeling of being embraced by something grander, some superior entity, when standing beneath a dome.

For its great size, the dome of Florence Cathedral is, of course, exceptional in its impact. But one might argue plausibly that architects and their patrons knowingly court those two related, near-universal sensations--awe and the immanence of the divine--every time they raise a dome or, for that matter, any graceful arcuated structure, whether on a grand or intimate scale. One might argue further that such was the case in particular for the two earlier buildings with concave ceilings across the street from the Cathedral of Florence, shaped differently but formally and iconographically akin to it and to each other: the imposing octagonal Baptistry and the smaller, round-arched loggia covered by a canopy-like, hemispherical groin vault that adjoins the former oratory and residence of the Company of Santa Maria della Misericordia. (4) This essay seeks to establish that at the end of the Middle Ages, in commissioning a loggia in the form of a domical canopy, the members of the Misericordia Confraternity knowingly and purposefully invoked several readily recognizable artistic conventions of that era to provide their foundation with its own shelter of sanctity, imbuing it with an aura of the divine. The ancestries of these conventions, respectively, are traceable back to Antiquity; and it is the further purpose of this essay to furnish the general contours of each of those lineages.

The Florentine Misericordia and Its Distinctive Loggia

Avenue often overlooked by visitors to Tuscany's beautiful and historic capital city, the Misericordia buildings were erected in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries at the head of the Via dei Calzaiuoli (formerly Corso degli Adimari), along the southern perimeter of Florence's Piazza del Duomo (fig. 1). This ensemble is truly dwarfed and overpowered by the towering edifices opposite it, with their shared, multicolored marble incrustations at once so tasteful and gaudy. Yet the three Misericordia structures--loggia, oratory, and residence--are highly significant, not only today as the home of the Museo del Bigallo, with its small but choice collection of paintings and sculptures of the Gothic and Renaissance periods, but as the first known headquarters of one of early-modern Florence's three premier charitable organizations. Along with the Companies of Or San Michele and Santa Maria del Bigallo, (5) the three confraternities played major roles in providing a social and financial safety net to support the city's poor. (6) The Allegory of Mercy fresco of 1342 still in situ in what was the company's residence illustrates that institution's outreach mission and more, as revealed in the early archival sources (fig. 2). Company members, mostly laypersons representing a wide spectrum of the Florentine populace, received rental income from properties owned as well as monetary and in-kind donations both large and small that were placed in the service of fulfilling, often literally, Christ's famous injunction in Matthew 25:34-40 to perform the so-called Corporal Works of Mercy: to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, to welcome the stranger and clothe the naked, to visit the imprisoned and succor the infirm. There is evidence, too, that from an early date members not only saw to each other's proper entombment as mandated in their statutes, but also carried out the non-canonical seventh work of mercy, burial of the city's neediest residents. Beyond the satisfaction drawn from providing material aid and surely psychological relief as well to the poor, thereby contributing to the betterment of the entire Florentine community, members of the organization and those persons offering support through donations could also expect to benefit from Christ's merciful promise enunciated in that same biblical passage, that in time they would "inherit the kingdom" of Heaven in reward for their righteous efforts in this life. All of these aspects of the Misericordia as an institution--the inclusiveness of its membership, of its contributing patrons, and in a broad sense of its beneficiaries; the diverse character of the company's philanthropic services; and the notion of spiritual reciprocity, the Lord's mercy in return for acts of neighborly love--are described in the frescoed allegory. (7)


The arched, open-sided loggia at street level is the most salient external element of the Misericordia complex, a feature shared with a number of other major charitable foundations in Central and Northern Italy of the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance (fig. 3). These include the headquarters of other significant benevolent societies, travelers' hospices, and hospitals for diseased indigents and other helpless victims drawn from the urban underclass in that early-capitalistic, proto-industrial age. Based indirectly on ancient prototypes, and heirs to several other convergent traditions of more recent date, today we know of some of these loggias of charity only through archival or pictorial records. Others, however, survive. (8) The best known of these, constructed from 1419 to 1427, is that of the Hospital of the Innocents in Florence, the city's largest home for abandoned and orphaned children. Designed by Alberti's friend Brunelleschi, it is now most famous as the first example of Renaissance architectural style. (9) A charity loggia from the previous century evidently turned a street corner along the ground floor of Florence's Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala (fig. 4). Now closed off and almost unrecognizable, it was undoubtedly familiar to Brunelleschi in the fifteenth century. The Scala is pertinent here because it, too, counted the care of foundlings and orphans among its principal services before its merger into the Hospital of the Innocents, established nearly a century later but on a far grander scale. (10) The loggias fronting the Scala and the Innocenti as well as that of early-modern Florence's other large institution overseeing homeless minors, the now-vanished Hospital of San Gallo, acted as temporary shelters for new arrivals at the very moment of their abandonment or commendation. (11)



Especially during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Company of Santa Maria della Misericordia also saw to the care of parentless children. This aspect of its charitable mission has been firmly established only recently on both artistic and documentary grounds. (12) The company lodged a restricted number of such youths inside its headquarters, which thus functioned to a limited extent as a hospital. But while the facade loggias of Florence's other children's homes were places of sad welcome, the Misericordia loggia seems to have served as the platform from which the confraternity brethren joyously bid their young charges farewell, consigning them to natural and surrogate mothers and thereby reintroducing them to the society outside that earlier and for any number of cruel reasons had rejected them. This is graphically illustrated in a damaged fresco of 1386 formerly on the exterior of the Misericordia residence and now displayed within, as part of the Museo del Bigallo's collection (fig. 5). (13)

Since ancient times the loggia has been an architectural form rooted in the public sphere, adapted to civic, mercantile, familial, and ecclesiastical purposes as well as charitable ones, all expressing the idea of community. (14) In every case the loggia was an open space whose general accessibility is not only intuitive but also well-documented. Beyond its analogies to those other loggia traditions, however, a charity loggia such as that of the Misericordia functioned emblematically as the calling card of the particular institution it fronted, literally that entity's open, welcoming, public face, announcing to the needy that aid was available therein. (15) As an urban landmark, it afforded to all participants in the equation of philanthropy--donors, beneficiaries, and most of all caregivers, in the present case the members of the Misericordia Company--a tangible manifestation of group identity and of that group's stake in the commonweal. In addition, practically, a loggia of charity was a covered, open-sided extension of the hospital or hospice that it abutted, offering protection from inclement weather to prospective lodgers and visitors waiting to enter, as well as unprepared pedestrians scurrying to find a moment's respite; and, conversely, it provided shelter to inmates seeking to pass some time outdoors. In this, too, the loggia of the Misericordia was probably no different. Clearly, like loggias serving each of those other purposes, loggias of charity in their own way embodied notions of civic unity and communal enhancement.


But the Misericordia structure may well be unique among charity loggias in a most important way: rather than an extended series of arcuated compartments, it comprises a single bay only that is crowned by a hemispherical groin vault, hence its approximation to a domed space. For this reason and for the unparalleled manner in which company members utilized it to fulfill their mission regarding homeless children, the Misericordia loggia merits special consideration. To be sure, its minimal size was in part conditioned by the constricted site available to the confraternity on which to build its headquarters--a small but nonetheless significant contribution at an important intersection to the century-long project, beginning in 1289, of expansion, beautification, and coordination through the repetitive use of the semicircular-arch motif that imposed order and regularity upon Florence's ecclesiastical center. (16) Moreover, viewed from the east rather than from its usual point of approach to the north, the loggia can and should be regarded as an entry portico for the small oratory beyond it, both of them additions of the 1350s to the earlier residence, the original Misericordia edifice on the Piazza del Duomo begun about thirty years previously. (17)

And yet, the abbreviated Misericordia loggia can be understood fully only by recourse to common representations in Italian art, both contemporaneous and earlier, of certain kinds of structures that reflect actual arched and domical constructions of the era, all with ancient pedigrees and honorific as well as sacred implications. Those representations and the real structures to which they refer would have been widely familiar to people throughout Italy during the Late Middle Ages, as would have been the profound meaning associated with such forms. Here it is of capital importance to note that arched and domical constructions of these sorts evidently carried identical connotations, for both "arch" and "dome"--and "vault" as well, of course--belong under the rubric of arcuated structures. Based in part, too, on countless formal models found in earlier, portable works of art, both Western and Byzantine, and mainly including manuscript illuminations and carved ivory panels, arcuated canopies and domes proper frequently appear in the backgrounds of Italian thirteenth- and fourteenth-century narrative scenes especially. Generally, such narratives fall into four discrete groups: funereal, liturgical, enthroning, and philanthropic.

Covered Tombs

First are scenes of burial of respected worthies, particularly those representing the funerals of Christ and His saints. A very early instance of the arcuated canopy in such a context, showing Christ's entombment, appears in the middle of the right apron of the painted cross known as Uffizi number 432, a work of the late twelfth century. A second example, illustrating the burial of Saint Mary Magdalene, is included at the lower right among the many scenes of her life arranged vertically in two rows on the eponymous panel of the mid dugento in the Florence Accademia by the so-called Magdalene Master. Another pair from earlier in the same century, representing the entombment of Christ and the Three Maries at the tomb, appears as the lower left and upper right apron scenes on the painted cross called Pisa number 20 (fig. 6) (18) These are, of course, but a precocious few of the many occasions in early Italian art that could be cited; examples exist in sculpture as well.



The three anonymous Italian artists responsible for these funerary narratives were surely aware of Byzantine prototypes, instances of which are similarly numerous, such as those pictured in three illuminations from the Menelogion of Emperor Basil II of about 985 depicting the martyrdom and translation of the remains of Saint Timothy, the funeral of Saint John Chrysostom, and the burial of Saint Luke. In each, a building identified as the church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, repository of relics of Christ's immediate disciples and burial church of the Byzantine emperors, constitutes the backdrop, with its five domes pictured in shorthand form. The cover of the contemporaneous Gospel Book of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III (reigned 983-1002), son of a Byzantine princess, furnishes an example of the device in another medium. Amid a plethora of gemstones set into a gold ground, an elegantly carved representation of the dormition of the Virgin appears on an ivory plaque imported from Constantinople, with an ornate domical baldachin framing the figures. (19)

Beyond the prototypes offered by such works of portable Byzantine art, the presence of arcuated canopies in early Italian scenes of burial is explained more directly by reference to the ceremonial baldachins of stone framing Italian monumental wall-tombs for the honored dead, ecclesiastical and lay, of the later dugento and trecento. Slightly postdating the earliest occurrences of the device in narrative art, the fully developed type seems to have appeared late in the 1260s, at the Dominican church of Santa Maria in Gradi in Viterbo. Among the half-dozen or so that once were there, the Cosmatesque tomb of Pope Clement IV (died 1268), preserved in something close to its original state, includes the oldest extant recumbent effigy in Italy. But the key element for the present discussion is the tall Gothic aedicule (here, as often subsequently, with inscribed trefoil), the earliest surviving representative of another fundamental component of the late-medieval wall-tomb in Italy. What remains of this monument, now without its specifically Christian elements on the wall beneath the canopy arch, was transferred to its present location in the nearby church of San Francesco alla Rocca fully six centuries after its execution by Pietro Oderisi. (20) The form and content of the Italian monumental wall-tomb that included an arched baldachin, usually displaying a pointed profile, crystallized around the authoritative artistic personality of Arnolfo di Cambio. Ironically, however, his two great exemplars, for Cardinal Guillaume de Braye (died 1282) in San Domenico in Orvieto and for the papal notary and subdeacon Riccardo Annibaldi (died 1289) in the Roman basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, are today fragmentary in differing degrees and lacking canopies, although scholars generally agree that each originally had one. (21)

In the next generation, Tino di Camaino developed the arcuated wall-tomb further, drawing additional elements from Arnolfo and, it seems, from his probable master Giovanni Pisano as well. Tino's several tombs for members of the ruling Angevin dynasty in Naples, erected during the final decade and a half of his career (ca. 1323-37), all include Gothic baldachins that are more three-dimensional and more independent of other components of the tomb than had been the case for earlier monuments (fig. 7). So great is their depth, in fact, that both short sides of each of these baldachins are open and fully arched like the wider front, and the ceiling is actually vaulted. In this and other ways Tino's Neapolitan memorials proved enormously influential for the subsequent history of tomb design in Southern Italy. Moreover, considered retrospectively, they establish the likelihood that his earlier sepulchral ensembles in Pisa, his native Siena, and Florence -authoritative models for Central Italy--also originally included arched canopies. (22) In common with those tombs by Tino's predecessors and his own subsequent examples, the canopy in each of the Tuscan monuments would have surmounted a fictive sarcophagus with recumbent effigy and other representational features emphasizing the deceased's Christian faith and profound belief in the possibility of salvation through the intercession of saints. In this scheme, the arch of the canopy, with an image of the Redeemer at its apex, probably signified the arc of Heaven, casting an aura of sanctity over the entire construct below.

Fourteenth-century tombs in Northern Italy are for the most part closely related to those erected elsewhere on the peninsula, such that the monuments for Mastino II and his son Cansignorio della Scala (died 1350, 1375), lords of Verona, in the cemetery adjacent to the church of Santa Maria Antica--both entirely freestanding and capped by soaring baldachins--are exceptional. But even they demonstrate kinship with less elaborate memorials elsewhere in their preference for arched openings. (23) Equally impressive if less ornate are several of the so-called glossator tombs in Bologna from the second half of the previous century. They probably served as precedents for the two Veronese monuments insofar as they are similarly freestanding and covered by arched canopies with tall roofs, albeit of a different design. (24)

Late in the Middle Ages the arched canopy did not go unchallenged as a key element of Italian monumental tomb design, but it quickly overcame the twin alternatives. Erected like a shed roof on columns above a freestanding casket, or rising like a triangular pediment atop pilasters to articulate the surface of a wall-tomb, the trabeated canopy with an angled profile enjoyed limited popularity mainly during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Clearly this signaled the historical moment when the professed humility that had found expression in the earlier medieval custom of marking underground graves with simple wall epitaphs or, eventually, flat or low-relief slabs embedded in the floor subsided, replaced by an increasingly open prideful attitude favoring more visible, sometimes even fully three-dimensional memorials. (25) Accordingly, within churches in Northern Europe commemorative slabs were elevated upon "tomb chests," while in Italy, already in the eleventh century, ancient Roman sarcophagi, some with lids formed like the pitched roof of a house, saw redeployment for burials of popes and princes. (26) Perhaps the most striking offshoots of this latter practice are, first, the unique group of five large, fully freestanding royal tombs of the Norman-Hohenstaufen era in Southern Italy, each originally consisting of a newly fashioned porphyry casket positioned beneath a shed roof raised upon tall columns; and second, the tomb of Cardinal Guglielmo Fieschi (died 1256) in San Lorenzo fuori le mura in Rome, with a reused antique sarcophagus set against a wall and resting beneath a (deficiently restored) canopy with sloping sides, exemplifying a tomb type of the second half of the thirteenth century popular in the ecclesiastical capital. (27) Whether or not the gabled top once possessed the same sepulchral associations as did the arched baldachin, so closely identified with funerary monuments for eminent persons, is impossible to say. Two things are certain, however. Beyond the lidded Roman sarcophagi, the motif is ultimately traceable to actual tomb structures, both freestanding and abutting the wall, built by the ancient Romans and by the Greeks before them. (28) And again, in the end, as an element of Italian late-medieval tomb design, trabeated construction proved far less enduring than the arch. Significantly, this fact is reflected in the paucity of such structures in Italian painted and sculpted representations of burials.

The canopied, freestanding dynastic tombs of Southern Italy found analogues in France and Germany, but the first known examples from the North of Europe--their baldachins apparently arched, and now all vanished--were generally later in date, contemporaneous, in fact, with both the later thirteenth-century Roman wall-tombs with shed roofs just mentioned and the arched, freestanding glossator tombs in Bologna. (29) Likely, the arched canopies of those Northern European monuments influenced Pietro Oderisi, Arnolfo di Cambio, and Tino di Camaino, who worked in Italy for powerful Northern patrons and other clients with Northern contacts. (30) But looking backward for the origins of the Northern phenomenon, one point of departure paving the way, as it were, may well have been a group of those low-relief tomb slabs of earlier date noted in passing above, with the flattened effigy of the illustrious deceased framed by an arched canopy, such that it resembles a standing figure in the round set within a niche. (31) Compositions of this sort in turn must be related to the jamb figures with miniature canopies overhead that flank the doors of countless Northern Gothic church portals, the protective overhangs helping to identify the standing figures below them as saintly persons of the past. But the freestanding arched tomb baldachins of transalpine Europe, and therefore both the arched wall-tombs of Italy dependent on them and those related depictions of burial, find their most immediate common source in the enfeu, or nichegrave, monuments of Northern France known today mainly by way of old graphic renderings and sculptural fragments. Similar in many ways to a Romanesque church portal with a semicircular arch but with figural elements and an iconographical scheme anticipating those of the Italian sepulchres, the earliest instance of this category of wall-tombs occurred about 1160, and the type remained popular into the fifteenth century. Probably the enfeu originally represented a solution to the problem of circulation within church buildings presented by the onset of freestanding, though as yet un-canopied tombs noted previously, for even an ostentatious wall-tomb impedes pedestrian traffic less than a freestanding monument. (32) Yet the enfeu, too, had a prototype, one of ancient date whose continuity through the centuries only recently has been brought into focus.

Scholars agree that the arcosolia encountered in Early Christian catacombs in many locales were reserved for the remains of martyrs and other important members of what began as a series of renegade communities within the larger Imperial Roman world (fig. 8). Located most frequently in cubicula, roomy underground chambers that were presumably reserved for such worthies, an arcosolium is an arched niche carved from the living rock, its sides either falling clear to the floor to accommodate a sarcophagus or stopping short of that to allow for deposit of a body into a (sealed) cavity in the rectangular mass of unexcavated wall below the arch. Frescoes generally enlivened the vaults and walls of cubicula, including their arcosolia, reflecting the high status of the persons entombed; and in those enclosures prayers were recited for the departed and commemorative meals shared by the living. (33)

Although they are most often associated with Christian catacombs of the first four centuries of the present era, it is now clear that the arcosolium as a tomb type designated for individuals of high standing had a long subsequent history, generally above ground and set into the walls of church interiors. Examples have been catalogued locating them in pre-Islamic Asia Minor and Northern Syria; in Visigothic Northern Spain; in France and Germany during the Merovingian, Carolingian (including the destroyed tomb of Charlemagne at Aachen), and Romanesque periods; and in early-twelfth-century Dalmatia. But perhaps nowhere was there as continuous and widespread a tradition of arcosolium burials--from the Langobardic era through the Romanesque and beyond--as in Italy, embracing Lombardy, Liguria, and the Veneto in the north, Rome and its environs in the center, and Campania and especially Apulia in the south. (34) In particular, three late-eleventh-century Apulian arcosolia provide the key to reconstructing the probable appearance of most or all of the earliest Norman tombs in Southern Italy, created for members of the ennobled Hauteville (Altavilla) clan and their retinue prior to their assuming the mantle of royal dynasts, when as described above their tombs became far more grandiose and sumptuous. (35)


Like the trabeated tomb baldachins with pitched roofs of the Late Middle Ages that saw limited favor in Rome and Southern Italy, the arcuated form that triumphed not only on Italian soil but in Northern Europe as well had fully freestanding sources that predate the enfeu wall-tomb and ultimately even the arcosolium. The fourth-century baldachin with an open "ceiling," consisting of two semicircular "arching beams" intersecting like the ribs of a groin vault without webbing, defined an enclosure nine meters square that projected from the apse of Old Saint Peter's in Rome to surround and accent the monument of porphyry and marble erected over the tomb of Saint Peter. Given its early date and the significance of the site, this construction likely initiated the usage of the above-ground, arched, and sometimes freestanding sheltered gravesite in the Christian West. The canopy was probably dismantled about 600 as part of a remodeling of the tomb of the saint during the reign of Pope Gregory the Great, at which time an annular crypt aligned with the curve of the apse wall was installed below ground around the sepulchre itself. (36) Following the Langobardic siege of Rome in 756, similar ring crypts were excavated beneath other Roman churches to safeguard and surround saintly relics brought into the city proper from their original resting places in catacombs located outside the city walls, where presumably they had been enshrined within arcosolia. (37) In each case the ceiling of such a crypt, to an extent reminiscent of a dome in its semicircular contour despite its two-dimensional form -it was, after all, the underside of a portion of the church floor above--in effect formed the roof of an autonomous, half-round tomb chamber. In retrospect, it seems clear that the pseudo-domical roof of an annular crypt on one hand, and the real arch or arches surmounting a tomb of any type on the other (the former a bona fide architectonic construction, the latter merely a shelter for human remains housed inside a building) were understood as analogous structures serving the same purpose: both forms were considered appropriate for the graves of the honored dead. Supporting this interpretation is the observation, based on their varied uses of the Greek term kiborion, the root of the English word "ciborium" (applied later in this essay specifically to altars), that Early Christian theologians made no semantic distinction between, first, the domical vault of a building, and second, the dome-like form sometimes employed for canopies over tombs (and altars). That is, those writers used the same term to describe both the rotund ceiling of an entire architectural space and the smaller hemispherical covering of a tomb standing within an edifice. In addition, such authors made no symbolic distinction between domed structures erected upon round and polygonal bases. (38) Apparently, for them the important thing was the appearance of arcuated construction, regardless of the means by which it was actually achieved. By extension, again one might conclude that a tomb chamber with a semicircular albeit flat roof could substitute adequately for a simple grave crowned by an arcuated structure.


There is no question that the West's arched sepulchral canopies, especially the freestanding ones, and its annular crypts are related to the numerous domed, mostly central-plan martyria of the Early Christian era that archaeologists have excavated in Syria, Turkey, and Israel. Such buildings, each marking the burial place of a saint and providing a locus for his/her commemoration, followed several different ground plans--not only circular and polygonal but also square, cruciform, trilobed, and rectangular--while structurally their common denominator was the central dome overhead. (39) The prototype for all Christian martyria was, of course, the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem, an early-fourth-century construction that was altered, destroyed, and rebuilt a number of times over the centuries. Despite arguments over its initial appearance, there is sufficient artistic and literary evidence to confirm that, originally and subsequently, the Holy Sepulchre was always capped by a dome of one form or another. (40) During the fifth and sixth centuries the domed, central-plan martyrium gave rise to the standard Byzantine-style church that came to dominate in Eastern Christendom, wherein the worship of Christ took precedence over the cult of martyrs. (41) More significant for the present investigation, however, are the sources of the martyrium, for they constitute the earliest bases for associating the late-medieval arched baldachin and representations of it in figural narratives with the notion of burial.

Early Christians needed only to glance around for immediate inspiration. Among the ancient Romans, central-plan tombs built above ground level with domical ceilings were not uncommon in some regions, including Italy, Egypt, Israel, and Syria, in all cases harboring the remains of persons surely of some means even if not necessarily illustrious status. Frescoed decorations inside indicate that both pagans and lay Christians utilized such structures. (42) Impressive imperial mausolea were simply an aggrandizement of the form. The now-truncated tomb built for Augustus and his successors, originally mound-like and planted with cypresses, along with that erected for Hadrian and his successors, served as models for those that followed; both are in Rome and both are circular in plan, though neither was domed (fig. 9). Every subsequent imperial mausoleum, pagan and then Christian, beginning with that of Diocletian at Split from about 300, was a domed, above-ground rotunda or octagon. (43) The round and partially subterranean tumuli of the necropolis at Cerveteri and those at other sites in Italy furnish an Etruscan source for the Roman custom. (44) Perhaps the Etruscans and certainly the expansionist Romans knew of the ancient Greek usage of similar tumulus burials common throughout the last thousand years B. C., as well as of their trabeated tholoi with conical roofs of the fourth century B. C. prominently situated at three of the major panhellenic sanctuaries; these, too, may have had funereal associations. (45) The Greek tumuli and tholoi almost surely owe something to the corbelled Mycenaean "beehive tombs" (also designated as tholoi) of the last half of the previous millennium. (46) These great masonry structures with domical interiors, covered with earth, were unquestionably intended for royal occupants, but what they in turn owe to the humbler circular chamber tombs and yet-earlier stone ossuaries of the Minoans is unclear. (47) Nonetheless, all of these ancient burial constructions point distantly ahead toward the arched canopies covering Italian tombs of the worthy and the powerful during the Late Middle Ages.


Tracing this development further involves a retreat into prehistory. Earl Baldwin Smith's attempt remains the most thorough and authoritative, if necessarily somewhat speculative. He established that "domical traditions" were widespread throughout the ancient world and long predated the technologies required for sophisticated timber, brick, and masonry domes; that the fully developed cupola "derived from primitive habitations"--houses, tents, and other shelters with curved roofs--with "ancestral and ritualistic" associations; and that those associations carried deep "mortuary, divine, royal, and celestial meanings." (48) Baldwin Smith drew the domical tents of Central Asiatic nomads along with ancient South Asian huts and shrines of similar form into his discussion of the origins of such traditions. (49) His principal focus, however, was on the centrality of the pagan and then Early Christian Near East to these developments. With regard to the sepulchral implications of these structures in particular, Baldwin Smith deduced that the "round and dome-shaped tomb [was] the reproduction of an ancient, ancestral, and god-given shelter ... [that became] an eternal home of the dead." He understood this as a widespread, cross-cultural phenomenon dating from the Stone Age and involving a "belief in the symbolic relation between an ancestral dwelling and a heavenly abode" shared by this or that divinity and the blessed souls of the deceased. (50) This is the thread connecting, for example, the practice among pre-Islamic Arabs of covering the graves of ancestors and great men with a dome-shaped leather tent (qobba); Greek conceptions of the omphalos, the cosmic center at Delphi embodied in the form a conoid stone, as the tomb of a legendary king and of Dionysos, and as a home for departed spirits; Roman ideas concerning the mundus, a primitive underground tumulus important to their notions about the afterlife; and Hellenistic and Roman literary descriptions and artistic representations of an arcadian past and future wherein gods and men mingle and a rudimentary construction, of central plan and always pictured with a curved roof, plays a key role.51 Again, the Italian late-medieval tomb canopy with arched profile cannot be divorced from these interrelated traditions. Nor can its repeated appearance in contemporaneous depictions of funerals for the highly esteemed.

Altar Ciboria

As memorials, tombs honoring great and influential persons are more likely to have remained partially if not fully intact over many centuries than are examples of either of the next two sorts of arcuated structures to consider in interpreting the unique loggia of the Florentine Misericordia Company. Both qualify as categories of furniture, and as such they proved more vulnerable than were funerary monuments to the whims of changing tastes and unsettling historical events. Few actual pieces from the Middle Ages of either type have survived over time in Italy or anywhere else. It is possible nonetheless to trace the broad outlines of their development.

Commencing again with reflections in figural art, the second type of narratives from the dugento and trecento commonly set within or before an arched or domical aedicule comprises depictions of events taking place at an altar. An artist close to the anonymous Florentine Master of the Bardi Saint Francis employed the motif twice among the vignettes flanking his Madonna and Child of ca. 1260 in Moscow: in the dedication of the Virgin to the Temple on the left side, second from the top, and in the presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple near the center on the right. Another pair of altar scenes featuring arched canopies stands out among the numerous events from the life of Francis of Assisi pictured on the Bardi Saint Francis Master's eponymous mid-century panel in Santa Croce, Florence, figuring the institution of the creche at the Mass in Greccio and the saint's canonization. Insofar as all of Christ's biblical meals are analogues in one way or another for the Last Supper, itself the prototype for the celebration of the Eucharist upon an altar, the domical baldachin extended over Christ's blessing of bread during the Supper at Emmaus at the bottom of the right apron on the painted cross called Uffizi number 434, from the 1230s or 1240s, provides one more example of this iconography (fig. 10).52 Again in this case, as for the appearance of arcuated structures in funerary scenes, many further examples in early Italian art exist.


Once more, too, Byzantine artists supplied plentiful models, including yet another illumination from the Menelogion of Basil II picturing an altar with arched ciborium within a church sanctuary, and a drawing of the presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple by an eleventh-century artist at Monte Cassino who grasped well the character of some East Christian antecedent. (53) In fact, pictorial evidence for the common presence of the arcuated altar baldachin in Christian worship retreats to the first centuries of art within that tradition; the lower cupola mosaics of uncertain early date in Hagios Giorgios at Salonika, portraying pairs of saints flanking altars with domed canopies, and the Stuma and Riha patens from the late fifth or early sixth century are exemplary in this regard (fig. 11). The arch motif in the center of each of the patens, above the mensa at which twin figures of Christ serve communion to His disciples, probably simulates the dome originally atop the coenaculum at the Sion Church in Jerusalem, where supposedly the Last Supper actually occurred, as well, perhaps--in the case of the Riha paten only--as that room's absidal niche rising behind an altar known not to have been surmounted by a ciborium. In the coenaculum itself and on the two patens, evidently, the dome and the half-dome of the absidal niche obviated the need for a separate arcuated ciborium proper, that is, in effect they constituted the ciborium. (54) Indeed, as R. Ross Holloway observed recently, "The dignity of the altar...was emphasized by a domed apse in built or renovated from a preexisting building after the Peace of 312" following the victory of Constantine the Great under the sign of the Cross. (55) Holloway's assertion implicitly referring to apsidal half-domes might be enhanced to include the loftier, full ceiling dome(s) so characteristic of East Christian churches, for they are effectively floating baldachins for the altars below them.

Additionally, as for funereal narratives, the presence of arched canopies in early Italian altar scenes reflects their actual deployment in medieval churches. (56) Arnolfo di Cambio's two freestanding Gothic ciboria in Rome, marking the high altars in San Paolo fuori le mura and Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, from 1285 and 1293, respectively, are the best known Italian examples (fig. 12). Unprecedented in their architectural complexity, in the sculptural treatment of their surfaces and contours, and in the fullness of their iconography, together they mark an elaboration and updating of ciboria from previous centuries. (57) The altar canopy from the early ninth century in Sant' Apollinare in Classe outside Ravenna and the possibly older one in Santa Maria in Sovana--both freestanding and with segmental arches--are considered among the few from the Early Middle Ages to reach the present in their original state. (58) Others of early date in Italy and elsewhere survive in altered form, while still others are known only through documents, archaeological excavations, or dismembered fragments. The assembled information reveals that ciboria were both monumental and at times highly decorative and colorful, incorporating precious metals or mosaics. (59) Whatever the present state of the evidence for individual examples, however, regardless of variations among them reflecting regional and period styles, and irrespective of whether the location of a particular altar within a church called for a baldachin that was fully in-the-round or abutting a wall, it is clear that from the beginning, ciborium designers preferred arched if not fully domical forms. (60) The original, now-lost high-altar ciborium at San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome donated by Emperor Constantine early in the fourth century probably established the custom within Christianity of employing ciboria to protect and focus attention upon altars. The authority wielded by the Lateran basilica, the seat of the pope as bishop of Rome, ensured the influence of this impressive object, an enormous, freestanding structure with a silver roof supported by columns of marble or porphyry, and replete with gold accoutrements including a dolphin-studded crown suspended from the arch on each of the structure's four sides. (61)

But the Lateran ciborium sprang from still earlier, pagan roots, including the covered shrines, some harboring divine images, found throughout Rome's eastern provinces and pictured on various coins. Surely this was a usage that the Romans in that region in turn had learned from their Hellenistic-era predecessors. Most notable among them were the huge baldachin sheltering the Great Altar of Zeus at Pergamon and the smaller, possibly portable one that encompassed the renowned sculpture of Tyche at Antioch. As for Christian altar canopies, the spanning element crowning each of these and other such structures arched upward. (62) Other Roman coins engraved with shrines of neighboring cultures in the East show that this practice was widely shared. The Jewish Ark of the Covenant appears thus, looming from within the Temple. Baldwin Smith was certainly correct in maintaining that originally the Ark was akin to the domical, early Arabic qobba tent mentioned previously, which beyond its use as a grave marker served individual groups among those nomadic peoples as a portable clan emblem and, comparable to a Christian altar ciborium, as a sanctuary for that clan's divinities in their material aspect. Not coincidentally, these divinities took the form of pairs of conoid stones (baetyls). For their similar shapes, the qobba itself and the deities it sheltered were essentially interchangeable. (63) Moreover, each of the sky gods of the more settled communities in pre-Christian Syria was likewise embodied as a conoid stone, which was not only the god's earthly manifestation but by implication, through the stone's formal analogy to the curved roof of the ancestral hut of ancient memory, also the god's heavenly dwelling. When pictured on ancient coins usually as a single stone resting upon an altar (sometimes shaded by two curved parasols that reiterate the shape), the resulting form, baetyl on altar, is not unlike that of an arcuated Christian ciborium atop an altar. (64)


The evidence furnished by numismatic imagery for the appearance of such early constructions and for interpretations of them, substantiated only to a degree and often indirectly by contemporaneous writers, is somewhat unsatisfying, and of course it provides no knowledge whatsoever of the surely even greater antiquity of arcuated altar canopies. But it must suffice. In any case, looking ahead, the objects inscribed on these ancient coins are the predecessors of altar ciboria common in Italy and elsewhere at the end of the Christian Middle Ages, and likewise of their portrayal within early Italian narrative scenes of events occurring at an altar.

Centre College

The author gratefully recognizes the assistance of Centre College while researching and composing this study, encompassing first a brief period in the course of one sabbatical, then an entire funded summer of study, and finally a semester-long leave of absence as H. W. and Adele Stodghill Research Professor at the college. Thanks are in order to the patrons and staffs of the Grace Doherty Library at Centre College and the Boyle County Public Library in Danville, Kentucky, for their help and unfailing good cheer. Portions of this material were presented in preliminary form at the Ars Italiana symposium honoring Professor Dario A. Covi at the University of Louisville in November 2005, at the annual meeting of the Midwest Art History Society convened in Dallas in March 2006, at the annual meeting of the Southeastern College Art Conference held in Nashville in October 2006, and at an April 2007 undergraduate symposium and a February 2008 faculty forum at Centre College. References in the notes to publications containing illustrations of artworks cited in the text are in most cases based on their general availability. This essay is dedicated to Thomas M. and Judith Klein and Gretchen M. Thams, and honors the memory of Susan K. Shapiro and Jeannette K. Gerbi, cousins and friends, in grateful acknowledgment of their abiding enthusiasm for my work.

(1.) Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting, rev. ed., trans. John R. Spencer (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1966), 40.

(2.) Christine Smith, Architecture in the Culture of Early Humanism: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Eloquence, 1400-1470 (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 19.

(3.) Ibid. for a brief synopsis of earlier scholars' ideas; and ibid., chap. 2, for Smith's own explanation.

(4.) For certain relationships between the Cathedral and the Baptistry, see Sally J. Cornelison, "Art Imitates Architecture: The Saint Philip Reliquary in Renaissance Florence," Art Bulletin 86, no. 4 (December 2004): 648, 650-51, 653-54 (with earlier references). For aspects of the link between the Baptistry and the Misericordia, see William R[obert] Levin, "Advertising Charity in the Trecento: The Public Decorations of the Misericordia in Florence," Studies in Iconography 17 (1996): 218; idem, "'Lost Children,' A Working Mother, and the Progress of an Artist at the Florentine Misericordia in the Trecento," Publications of the Medieval Association of the Midwest 6 (1999): 37-39; and idem, "'Tanto goffe e mal fatte ... dette figure si facessino ... belle:' The Trecento Overdoor Sculptures for the Baptistry in Florence and Their Cinquecento Replacements," Studies in Iconography 26 (2005): 228-29. The author of this essay is engaged currently in a broader study of the iconographical connections among the exterior sculptures now and formerly adorning the buildings on Florence's Piazza del Duomo.

(5.) The latter foundation was joined to the Misericordia early in the quattrocento and inherited its premises a century later after the merger was dissolved and the Misericordia relocated nearby.

(6.) On the history, headquarters, and artistic patrimony of the Misericordia and Bigallo, see Levin, "Advertising Charity," 215-309; William R[obert] Levin, "A Lost Fresco Cycle by Nardo and Jacopo di Cione at the Misericordia in Florence," Burlington Magazine 141, no. 1151 (February 1999): 75-80; idem, "Two Gestures of Virtue in Italian Late-Medieval and Renaissance Art," Southeastern College Art Conference Review 13, no. 4 (1999): 325-346; idem, "Confraternal Self-Imaging in Marian Art at the Museo del Bigallo in Florence," Confraternitas 10, no. 2 (Fall 1999): 3-14; and idem, The Allegory of Mercy at the Misericordia in Florence: Historiography, Context, Iconography, and the Documentation of Confraternal Charity in the Trecento (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2004). All include earlier references. On Or San Michele, see the references in note 97 below.

(7.) Levin, The Allegory of Mercy at the Misericordia in Florence. See also Phillip J[oseph] Earenfight, "Mnemonics, Catechism, and The Allegory of Divine Misericordia: How a Trecento Florentine Confraternity Instructed its Members in Christian Theology through Image and Text," Journal of Religious History 28 (2004): 64-86.

(8.) Levin, "Advertising Charity," 234-42, and notes; and William R[obert] Levin, "The Facade of Public Philanthropy: A Typological Study of the Tuscan Loggias of Charity," Arris: Journal of the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians 12 (2001): 1-29.

(9.) On the Innocenti and its loggia, see Levin, "Advertising Charity," 235, 285-86 n. 39, 289 n. 55, 290 nn. 61-62, 295 n. 78, fig. 9; and idem, "The Facade of Public Philanthropy," 10, 18, 24 n. 41, 28 n. 82, fig. 9. Both include earlier references.

(10.) On the Scala and its loggia, see Levin, "Advertising Charity," 228; 238; 240-41; 284-86 nn. 31, 39; 291 n. 66; 295 n. 78; and idem, "The Facade of Public Philanthropy," 7, 23 n. 33, 24 n. 41. Both include earlier references. It is intriguing to note that, intentionally or not, the building that once was the Scala continues to serve troubled Florentine youths. Signs currently posted at the main entrance read "Ufficio Giustizio Minorile--Centro Prima Accoglienza" and "Ufficio Servizio Sociale Minorenni."

(11.) On San Gallo and on children's hospital loggias generally as places of abandonment, see Levin, "Advertising Charity," 228; 238; 24041; 284-87 nn. 29, 31, 35, 39, 45; 291 n. 66; 295 nn. 77-78; and idem, "The Facade of Public Philanthropy," 7, 17, 23 n. 33, 24 n. 41, 27 n. 76. Both include earlier references.

(12.) Levin, "Advertising Charity;" idem, "'Lost Children,'" 34-84; idem, "Confraternal Self-Imaging in Marian Art," 9-11, 11 n. 25; idem, The Allegory of Mercy at the Misericordia in Florence, 34; 57-58; 67-69; 71-73; 78; 137-38 nn. 14, 17; 159-60 nn. 50, 53; and idem, "'Tanto goffe e mal fatte,'" 229.

(13.) Levin, "Advertising Charity," 221-34, 242, 275, fig. 3, and notes; and idem, "'Lost Children,'" 40-46, figs. 2-3, and notes.

(14.) Levin, "The Facade of Public Philanthropy."

(15.) Levin, "Advertising Charity," 234-41, 274-75; and idem, "The Facade of Public Philanthropy," 18, 28 n. 83 (with earlier references).

(16.) On the company's acquisition of the building site, beginning in 1321-22, and its location within the larger urban context, see Levin, "Advertising Charity," 217-19, 274, 278 n. 6; idem, "A Lost Fresco Cycle," 75; idem, "Confraternal Self-Imaging in Marian Art," 4, 4 n. 4; idem, "The Facade of Public Philanthropy," 23 n. 34; and idem, The Allegory of Mercy at the Misericordia in Florence, 17, 112 nn. 8-9. All include earlier references.

(17.) See the preceding note for references to the expansion of the Misericordia premises during the 1350s. The notion of the Misericordia loggia as an ecclesiastical facade portico was originally proposed in Levin, "Advertising Charity," 239. On church loggias in general as well as their applicability to loggias of charity, including that of the Misericordia, see ibid., 234; 239-41; 275; 291-93 nn. 68, 70; and idem, "The Facade of Public Philanthropy," 16-19.

(18.) For Uffizi number 432 (Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, cat. no. 432), see Angelo Tartuferi, La Pittura a Firenze nel duecento (Florence: Alberto Bruschi, 1990), 9-10, fig. 1. For the Mary Magdalene Altarpiece (Florence, Galleria dell'Accademia, cat. no. 8466), see ibid., 42, 44, 90, fig. 157. For Pisa number 20 (Pisa, Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, cat. no. 20), see Frederick Hartt and David G. Wilkins, History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, 5th ed. (Upper Saddle River, N. J.: Prentice-Hall; New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2003), 60-62, figs. 2.3-2.4.

(19.) For the three illuminations, respectively, in the Menelogion of Basil II (Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS. Vat. gr. 1613, fols. 341, 353, 121), see Richard Krautheimer, Studies in Early Christian, Medieval, and Renaissance Art (New York: New York University Press; London: University of London Press, 1969), 198, figs. 75-77. Reflecting the heated dispute over the form and patronage of the long-vanished church of the Holy Apostles and the mausoleum associated with it are the different opinions expressed in E[arl] Baldwin Smith, The Dome: A Study in the History of Ideas, Princeton Monographs in Art and Archaeology, vol. 25 (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1950), 25; Ingo Herklotz, "Sepulcra" e "monumenta" nel medioevo: Studi sull'arte sepolcrale in Italia, Collana di Studi di Storia dell'Arte, directed by Mario D'Onofrio, vol. 5 (Rome: Edizioni Rari Nantes, 1985), 39, 67-69; Jas Elsner, Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph: The Art of the Roman Empire, A. D. 100-450, Oxford History of Art (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 164-65; and W. Eugene Kleinbauer, "Antioch, Jerusalem, and Rome: The Patronage of Emperor Constantius II and Architectural Invention," Gesta 45, no. 2 (2006), 125-26. For the late-tenth-century Gospels of Otto III book cover (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, MS. Clm. 4453) see John Beckwith, Early Medieval Art, rev. ed., World of Art (London and New York: Thames and Hudson, 1969), 105-7, ill. 86.

(20.) For the Clement IV tomb, see Erwin Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture: Four Lectures on Its Changing Aspects from Ancient Egypt to Bernini (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1964), 76-77, 76-77 n. 2; John Pope-Hennessy, An Introduction to Italian Sculpture, 3rd ed., 3 vols. (New York: Random House, Vintage Books, 1985), vol. 1, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 13; Herklotz, "Sepulcra" e "monumenta," 164, figs. 61-62; and Anita Fiderer Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, c. 1250-c. 1400 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 49-50, 306-7, 333 n. 17, fig. 59. The key Christian element of the tomb, now lost, was an intercessory scene; see below. For other tombs in Santa Maria in Gradi see Herklotz, "Sepulcra" e "monumenta," 163-70; figs. 63-65, 75-77; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 306-7.

(21.) For the de Braye tomb, see Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture, 76-77, fig. 333; Pope-Hennessy, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 14, 182, fig. 25, pls. 2627; Herklotz, "Sepulcra" e "monumenta," 191, fig. 79; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 49-50, figs. 56-58 (see also 129-30, fig. 164). For the Annibaldi tomb see Pope-Hennessy, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 14, 181-82, fig. 21, pl. 25; Herklotz, "Sepulcra" e "monumenta," 170-80, 186, figs. 66-70; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 50, 307, 333 n. 21, 364 n. 26, fig. 60. Moskowitz accepted Herklotz's credible suggestion for revising the identification of the Annibaldi family member for whom the tomb was intended.

(22.) For Tino's tombs in Tuscany, see Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture, 86; figs. 395-96, 401-2; Pope-Hennessy, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 16-17, 184-85, fig. 26, pls. 30-33; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 102-14, figs. 129-42. For Tino's Neapolitan tombs, see Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture, 74-75, 86, fig. 397; Pope-Hennessy, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 17, 185-86, fig. 28, pls. 34-35; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 181-90, figs. 234-245. Outside of the specialized literature, information and illustrations are scarce for later trecento tombs in Naples and elsewhere in Southern Italy, but see Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture, 65, 86-87, figs. 398-99; Pope-Hennessy, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 17-18, 186, fig. 32, pl. 36; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 191-93, 197-98; figs. 247-49, 255. Tino's debt to Giovanni Pisano specifically in the realm of tomb sculpture--using personified virtues as supports--presumes his familiarity with the latter's now-fragmentary monument for Empress Margaret of Luxemburg (died 1311, also known as Margaret of Brabant) originally in San Francesco di Castelletto in Genoa, for which, see Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture, 77, fig. 338; Pope-Hennessy, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 179-80, pl. 23; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 90-93, 338 n. 55, figs. 115-16. On the possibility that Tino's Tuscan tombs included Gothic canopies, see Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture, 86; figs. 395, 401 (Emperor Henry VII tomb [died 1313], Pisa, Cathedral [see below at note 98]; Bishop Antonio Orso tomb [died 1320], Florence, Cathedral); and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 107-9, figs. 135-36 (Emperor Henry VII tomb); 146 (Cardinal Riccardo Petroni tomb [died 1313], Siena, Cathedral); 341 n. 35 (Patriarch Gastone della Torre tomb [died 1318], Florence, Museo di Santa Croce).

(23.) For Lombard canopied tombs, see Pope-Hennessy, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 25, fig. 47; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 200201, 207-9, 350 n. 2; figs. 256-57, 266-68. For canopied tombs in the Veneto, for Padua, see Pope-Hennessy, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 30-31, fig. 57; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 250-51, fig. 320; and for Verona (including the Mastino II and Cansignorio monuments), see Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture, 84, figs. 385-87; Pope-Hennessy, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 27-28, 200-201, figs. 48-51, pl. 63; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 273-85, figs. 351-64. The Cansignorio tomb is signed by the Lombard sculptor Bonino da Campione, though scholars have detected the hands of several artists. The high-pitched roof was favored in Verona for non-freestanding tombs as well.

(24.) For the glossator tombs, see Josef Deer, The Dynastic Porphyry Tombs of the Norman Period in Sicily, trans. G. A. Gillhoff, Dumbarton Oaks Studies, vol. 5 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1959), 40-41 n. 73; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 305, figs. 378-79.

(25.) Deer, Dynastic Porphyry Tombs, 26; Herklotz, "Sepulcra" e "monumenta," chap. 1 and p. 58; and Nicholas Penny in The Dictionary of Art, s.v. "Tomb, VI. Western World, 1. Introduction, 2. Before ca. 1600," vol. 31, pp. 121-22.

(26.) Herklotz, "Sepulcra" e "monumenta," chaps. 2-3 passim; figs. 13, 15; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 302.

(27.) Four of the five members of the South Italian group (probably there were one or two others originally) are in Palermo Cathedral; the fifth is in Monreale Cathedral and now lacks its baldachin. All were made between 1145 and 1198. See Deer, Dynastic Porphyry Tombs, passim, esp. 36, 40-41 for the canopies; figs. 18, 81, 92, 99, 127. For the Fieschi tomb, see Pope-Hennessy, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 13, fig. 22; and Herklotz, "Sepulcra" e "monumenta," 161-63, figs. 56-57; see also Gerald S. Davies, Renascence: The Sculptured Tombs of the Fifteenth Century in Rome, with Chapters on the Previous Centuries from 1100 (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, W., 1910), 26-27, figs. 8-9, for a pair of contemporaneous Roman monuments of the same type that lack canopies but presumably once had them; for later examples (without canopies), see ibid., 44-46, figs. 14-15.

(28.) Deer, Dynastic Porphyry Tombs, 30, 30 n. 26, 33-34, 33-34 n. 43; Herklotz, "Sepulcra" e "monumenta," 143, 161; and A[rnold] W[alter] Lawrence, Greek Architecture, 4th ed., rev. with additions by R. A. Tomlinson, The Pelican History of Art, ed. Nikolaus Pevsner, Peter Lasko, and Judith Nairn (New York and Harmondsworth, U. K.: Penguin Books, 1983), 247-48, 252-54, 274-75, 287, 387-88 n. 15; figs. 226-27, 247-48, 265-66.

(29.) For early examples of Northern tombs formerly with arched baldachins, see Deer, Dynastic Porphyry Tombs, 40 n. 72 (tombs of Prince Louis de France [died 1259 or 1260] originally in Royaumont Abbey and now in Saint-Denis, Count Palatine Henry [died 1095, tomb ca. 1255] in Maria Laach, and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary [died 1231, tomb of second half of the thirteenth century] in Marburg); Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture, 52, 54, 62-63, 63 n. 1 (tomb of Pope Clement II [died 1047, tomb ca. 1235-40] in Bamberg Cathedral); and Willibald Sauerlander, Gothic Sculpture in France, 1140-1270, trans. Janet Sondheimer (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1972), 459-60, 490, ill. 82 (tomb of Prince Philippe de France [died ca. 1235] originally in Royaumont Abbey and now in Saint-Denis, and tomb of Prince Louis de France).

(30.) Pope Clement IV, whose tomb was made by Oderisi, had been Archbishop of Narbonne, and the person who supervised execution of the monument was French; see Herklotz, "Sepulcra" e "monumenta," 164. Cardinal de Braye, whose tomb Arnolfo created, was from France--as was, of course, the entire Angevin dynasty in Naples for which Tino worked. In addition, Tino executed the commission for the tomb of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII in Pisa Cathedral (see notes 22 above and 98 below).

(31.) For examples of such tomb slabs, see Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture, 52, 55; figs. 199, 202, 204, 214 (tombs of Duke Widukind of Saxony [died ca. 800, tomb ca. 1130] in Enger, Bishop Evrard de Fouilloi [died 1220 or 1222] in Amiens Cathedral, Count Henry III of Sayn [died 1247] in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, and Archbishop Peter von Aspelt [died 1320] in Mainz Cathedral); and Sauerlander, Gothic Sculpture in France, 467, 490, pl. 272, ill. 88 (tomb of Bishop Evrard de Fouilloi, and tomb of Prince Louis de France [see note 29 above]).

(32.) For examples of enfeu tombs, see Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture, 61, figs. 244-45 (tomb of Abbot Arnoult [?, died ca. 1220] formerly in Saint-Pere, Chartres; and tomb of an archbishop of Reims [William I of Champagne, died 1202, or Guido Pare, died ca. 1206], of which fragments are embedded into the Porte Romane of Reims Cathedral); and Sauerlander, Gothic Sculpture in France, 396-97, 415-16; pl. 56; ills. 16, 33 (tomb of Ogier the Dane and his page Benedict [died ca. 800, tomb ca. 1160] formerly in Saint-Faron, Meaux; tomb of Abbot Arnoult[?]; and the Porte Romane, Reims, fragments here ascribed to the tomb of Archbishop Henri de France [died 1175]). See also Penny, "Tomb, VI. Western World, 1. Introduction, 2. Before ca. 1600," 123-24.

(33.) On ancient arcosolia, see Deer, Dynastic Porphyry Tombs, 27 n. 13 (noting their existence in ancient Greece); Herklotz, "Sepulcra" e "monumenta," 143-44, 156; figs. 2, 37, 41-42; M[ary] C[ecilia] Hilferty in New Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Arcosolium," vol. 1, p. 774 (speculating on the etymology of the word: arcus [arch] or arca [coffin], and solium [throne, processional litter for the burial of a distinguished individual]); John Osborne in The Dictionary of Art, s.v. "Catacomb," vol. 6, pp. 69-71; and R. Ross Holloway, Constantine and Rome (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004), 90, 106, 111 (calling attention to examples in the great above-ground, apse-ended cemetery basilicas of Constantinian Rome).

(34.) For examples of medieval arcosolia, see Deer, Dynastic Porphyry Tombs, 26 n. 4, 27, 30, 30 n. 27a, 31, fig. 6; Herklotz, "Sepulcra" e "monumenta," 56-58, 144-56, 186; figs. 6-8, 38-40, 43-46, 78; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 303-5, figs. 376-77.

(35.) For the Norman arcosolia, each of them subsequently altered but still easily recognizable as such, see Herklotz, "Sepulcra" e "monumenta," 53, 55-58, figs. 6-8. Herklotz (ibid., 55, 58, fig. 5) considered the pedimented wall-tomb of Robert Guiscard's first wife, Alberada (died after 1122), in Santissima Trinita, Venosa, as stylistically distinct from this group insofar as it lacks an arch. He also largely ignored any connection between the Alberada tomb and that of the papal chamberlain Alfanus (died ca. 1123) in the vestibule of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome, to which Deer (Dynastic Porphyry Tombs, 28-31; figs. 2, 6) had compared it. Herklotz ("Sepulcra" e "monumenta," 55, 143, 156, fig. 45) emphasized that the Alfanus tomb, despite its pedimented frame, is an arcosolium, and for this reason he chose to link it instead to a tomb of similar composition at Santi Cosma e Damiano, Rome (fig. 46), perhaps that of Cardinal Guido (died 1149), as well as other arcosolia.

(36.) For the canopy over tomb of Saint Peter, known in part from its description in the Liber pontificalis, see Debra Birch, Pilgrimage to Rome in the Middle Ages: Continuity and Change, Studies in the History of Medieval Religion, ed. Christopher Harper-Bill, vol. 13 (Woodbridge, U. K.: Boydell Press, 1998), 30-33; and Holloway, Constantine and Rome, 79-80, 128-31, 166 n. 54, fig. 4.10. Holloway (ibid., 82) repeated earlier suggestions that Old Saint Peter's was complete by 324. Birch (Pilgrimage to Rome, 92) noted another tomb canopy, of gilded bronze and seventh-century date, that was formerly in Sant'Agnese along the Via Nomentana outside Rome.

(37.) For these other annular crypts in Rome, see Birch, Pilgrimage to Rome, 100-101. Most date from the reign of Pope Paschal I (817-24) or later in the ninth century. For the rarer earlier ring crypts in Rome, see ibid., 93-94, 99.

(38.) Karl Lehmann, "The Dome of Heaven," Art Bulletin 27, no. 1 (March 1945), 27, 27 n. 248; and Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 14, 14 n. 18, 98, 100. Authors cited include Mark the Deacon (Life of Porphyry, Bishop of Gaza), Athenaeus (Deipnosoph 1.3.72), Gregory of Nyssa (Epistles), and Arculf (On the Holy Places). See also ibid., 13 and passim (on the link between the martyrium with its relatively small dome and the larger dome of the East Christian church building); 36-37 (on the domical elements in the narratives portrayed on the Stuma and Riha patens, figs. 33-34, for which, see below at note 54); 105, 109, 135 (on the domed martyrium as a monumental tomb canopy).

(39.) For the various types of martyria and examples of them, see Baldwin Smith, The Dome, chap. 5. For the growth of the cult of martyrs and their relics see ibid., 97-98; K[ees] W[illem] Bolle, P[eter] J[oseph] Kearney, R[ichard] X[avier] Redmond, and J[ohn] B[ertram] O'Connell in New Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Altar," vol. 1, p. 347; and John N. Lupia and Barbara Drake Boehm in The Dictionary of Art, s.v. "Altar, II. Europe, 1. Early Christian, 2. Eastern," vol. 1, p. 694.

(40.) The Holy Sepulchre has been the subject of numerous investigations. See for example Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 16-29, esp. 18-20 n. 35; 54-55; figs. 1-12, 14, 218-27 (with earlier references).

(41.) On the mutation of the martyrium into the domed church, see ibid., 91; 97; chap. 6, esp. 148-49. On the theologically problematic nature of the cult of martyrs, see ibid., 97, 132-35. On the collection of relics subsequently in the sometimes domed side chapels of East Christian churches, see ibid., 151-54.

(42.) For these domical Roman tombs, some Christian, see Lehmann, "The Dome of Heaven," 11, 19, 21, 26; figs. 24, 56; and Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 57-59; figs. 74-81, 85-87. For catacomb cubicula with pseudodomical, centralized ceiling designs painted in fresco, see Lehmann, "The Dome of Heaven," 7, 11-12.

(43.) For the imperial mausolea named, see Fred S. Kleiner, A History of Roman Art (Belmont, Cal.: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007), 79-80, 18485, 289; figs. 6.2, 12.23, 19.18. Other Roman domical mausolea, most with imperial associations, are discussed in Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 24-26, esp. 24-25 n. 46; figs. 17-21; Elsner, Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph, 159-65, figs. 107-12; and Holloway, Constantine and Rome, 86-104, figs. 3.27-3.45. See note 19 above regarding the dispute over the mausoleum of Constantine.

(44.) For Etruscan tumuli, see Lehmann, "The Dome of Heaven," 2, 20, 20 n. 76, 26, fig. 2; and Kleiner, A History of Roman Art, 80, fig. 6.3.

(45.) For Greek tumuli, see Lehmann, "The Dome of Heaven," 4, 10; figs. 6, 21; Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 52, fig. 66; and Lawrence, Greek Architecture, 239. For the tholoi at Delphi (ca. 390ff. B. C.), Epidauros (ca. 370ff. B. C.), and Olympia (ca. 339ff. B. C.), see J[erome] J[ordan] Pollitt, Art and Experience in Classical Greece (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1972), 164-66, commenting on the possible funereal significance of the tholoi at Epidauros and Olympia; and Lawrence, Greek Architecture, chap. 17, esp. 390 n. 4 on the crypt at Epidauros; figs. 154, 211, 216.

(46.) For Mycenaean tholoi, see Lawrence, Greek Architecture, chap. 6, figs. 53-58.

(47.) For the Minoan burial structures and their differences from Mycenaean tholoi, see ibid., 32-34, 41, 66, 78, 86; figs. 16, 42.

(48.) Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 6-8, 23, 43-44 and passim.

(49.) Ibid., 65-66, 80-81, 83.

(50.) Ibid., 51-52; see also 6, 8.

(51.) Ibid., 8, 26-28 n. 52, 43-44, 52-53, 52 n. 31, 53 n. 33, 60, 6566, 75-77; figs. 22, 24-25, 68, 96.

(52.) For the Madonna and Child Altarpiece (Moscow, Museum of Figural Arts), see Tartuferi, La Pittura a Firenze nel duecento, 26, 77, fig. 59. For the Saint Francis Altarpiece (Florence, Santa Croce, Bardi Chapel), see ibid., 25-26, 77, fig. 50. For Uffizi number 434 (Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, cat. no. 434), see ibid., 14, 25, 75, fig. 63. Analogies between the Last Supper (Matt. 26:20-29, Mark 14:17-25, Luke 22:14-38, John 13-17 [see also 6:51-58]; see also 1 Cor. 11:23-25) and Christ's several other meals recounted in the Bible include the following: the Feast in the House of Matthew/Levi (Matt. 9:9-13, Mark 2:14-17, Luke 5:27-32), the Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50, along with its parallel, the Anointing at Bethany [Mark 14:3-9, John 12:1-8]), and the Dinner of Christ in the House of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) all characterize Christ as a teacher, expounding as at the Last Supper on the need for forgiveness of sins and thus implicitly on the promise of eternal life; the Marriage at Cana (John 2:1-12) presents Christ transforming water into wine, foreshadowing the transubstantiation of wine into His own blood at the Last Supper and subsequently in the sacrament of the Eucharist; and the Supper at Emmaus (Luke 24:28-32) describes the resurrected Christ's blessing of the bread, recalling His similar action at the Last Supper and prefiguring priestly benediction of the Eucharistic Host. Thus, for example, the domical canopy spread over the Anointing at Bethany depicted at the upper left of the Mary Magdalene Altarpiece in the Florence Accademia (see note 18 above), when combined with that event's Last Supper-like message of forgiveness, unmistakably marks the supper table in that scene as a Eucharistic altar mensa.

(53.) For the Menelogion illumination (Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS. Vat. gr. 1613, fol. 324), see Thomas F. Matthews, The Early Churches of Constantinople: Architecture and Liturgy (University Park, Pa., and London: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1971), 165, fig. 97; for similar representations of ciboria, see ibid., figs. 94a, 95, 96, 98. For the drawing from Monte Cassino (Monte Cassino, Biblioteca, MS. 98 H), dated ca. 1060-70, see Otto Demus, Byzantine Art and the West, The Wrightsman Lectures, vol. 3 (New York: New York University Press for the Institute of Fine Arts, 1970), 27, fig. 26.

(54.) For the Hagios Giorgios mosaics and their controversial date (late fourth to early sixth century), see Robin Cormack, Byzantine Art, Oxford History of Art (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 25-31; figs. 10, 12. For this interpretation of the famous Stuma and Riha patens (Istanbul, Archaeological Museum; Washington, Dumbarton Oaks Collection, respectively), see Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 36-37, figs. 33-34.

(55.) Holloway, Constantine and Rome, 73, specifically commenting on churches in Rome.

(56.) For additional references beyond those appearing in the notes that follow regarding both arcuated and trabeated altar ciboria, see Deer, Dynastic Porphyry Tombs, 32 n. 38; Brendan Cassidy, "Orcagna's Tabernacle in Florence: Design and Function," Zeitschrift fur Kunstgeschichte 55 (1992): 199 nn. 84-86; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 334 n. 28.

(57.) For Arnolfo's two ciboria, see Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 50-58, esp. 55, 58 for their progressive qualities; figs. 61-70. In a general way Arnolfo's ciboria resemble the two-storied construction of 1243-48 that dominates the apse of the upper chapel of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, restored with reasonable accuracy in the nineteenth century after its destruction during the French Revolutionary period. The chapel altar formerly stood within the ground-level archway of the aedicule, while the precious, now-destroyed Passion reliquary that was the building's centerpiece shone beneath the arched canopy above. See Andrew Martindale, Gothic Art, World of Art (London and New York: Thames and Hudson, 1967), ill. 62; and Daniel H. Weiss, "Architectural Symbolism and the Decoration of the Ste.-Chapelle," Art Bulletin 77, no. 2 (June 1995), 308-20, figs. 1-2.

(58.) For the ciboria in Ravenna (ca. 806-10) and Sovana (eighth or ninth century), see G[odelieve] van Hemeldonck in The Dictionary of Art, s.v. "Ciborium (ii)," vol. 7, pp. 301-2, figs. 1-2. According to Lehmann ("The Dome of Heaven," 27 n. 248), no Early Christian altar ciborium survives with ceiling intact.

(59.) Early-medieval ciboria that have been altered include those in Sant'Ambrogio, Milan (ninth and eleventh centuries), and in San Marco, Venice (sixth[?] and eleventh centuries). Other ciboria that are known only through either the archaeological or documentary record date from as early as the fifth century. Fragments of a ciborium of the early sixth century exist at San Clemente, Rome. See van Hemeldonck, "Ciborium (ii)," 301-2. Documented and fragmentary ciboria of the sixth-century in Constantinople are discussed in Matthews, The Early Churches of Constantinople, 54-55, 66-67, 99, fig. 32, pl. 41.

(60.) Van Hemeldonck, "Ciborium (ii)," 301-3; Lupia and Boehm, "Altar, II. Europe, 1. Early Christian, 2. Eastern," 695.

(61.) The Lateran basilica was built ca. 312-16; see Holloway, Constantine and Rome, 57, 59. Its original ciborium is described in the Liber pontificalis. Stolen by Alaric and his Visigoths in 410, Emperor Valentinian III replaced it at the request of Pope Sixtus III (reigned 43240). Maurice M. Hassett in The Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Altar, III. The Ciborium," vol. 1, pp. 363-64. See also below at note 90.

(62.) For Hellenistic and Roman altar canopies, see Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 68-69; figs. 102, 104-13 (fig. 106 for the Pergamene altar, fig. 109 for the Antiochene altar).

(63.) For the Ark and the qobba as well as their likely relationship to one another, see ibid., 43-44, 60, 83-85; figs. 147, 151. It is tempting, moreover, to see in the standard, double-arched shape of the two tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments a reflection of the pairs of conoid baetyls that were housed in qobba tents.

(64.) For Syrian baetyls on altars, see ibid., 72-73, figs. 126-31. See also ibid., 77-79; figs. 104, 134, 136 (also fig. 130) for the Dioskouroi twins and coins featuring their baetyl-like paired symbols, two conoid helmets (piloi), upon an altar. Popular in the Near East, the ancients regarded the Dioskouroi as intermediaries between gods and humankind and as agents of immortality; perhaps, therefore, the image of two piloi upon an altar is somehow related to the arcuated funereal canopies discussed earlier.

Editor's Note: This is part one of a longer study; the second part will appear in the next issue of the SECAC Review. With the single-bay loggia of the prominently situated Confraternity of the Misericordia in Florence as his point of departure, the author traces the history of arched and domical structures from the Late Middle Ages backward to Antiquity. Part one addresses the Misericordia loggia proper and arcuated structures marking tombs and altars; part two will consider sheltered thrones and venues for humanitarian actions, as well as instances where an arched or domical construction served more than one of these functions.

Opposite page, Figure 6. Master of the San Matteo Crucifix (Pisan), Painted Cross, Pisa, Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, early thirteenth century. (Photo: Scala/Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita Culturali / Art Resource, N. Y.)
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Title Annotation:Florence, Italy
Author:Levin, William R.
Publication:Southeastern College Art Conference Review
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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