Friday, July 11, 2008

Umbria: Two Pilgrimage Churches (1606 & 1965)

"These days, when art and devotion rarely coincide, pilgrims tend to ignore the Templo della Consolazione, preferring the hideous Sanctuaio dell’Amore Misericordioso." (from UMBRIA, a Cadogan Guide, by Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls)

The Church of Santa Maria della Consolazion is considered to be a simplified and scaled-down version of Bramante’s project for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome: a centrally planned church with closely corresponding interior and exterior designs, and topped by a large dome sitting on a drum. (Originally this church was thought to be the work of Bramante, but documents exist that show many architects had a hand in the project.)

Built on the outer edge of the 13th century walls of Todi, construction of this pilgrimage church for a miraculous image of an enthroned Madonna was started in 1508 and completed in 1606.

It is said that this was an attempt to create a perfect Renaissance temple. It is a travertine statement of geometric forms: semicircles, triangles and domes.

On a hilltop in Collevaleza, just about five km from the Church of Santa Maria della Consolazione in Todi,  stands the Sanctuaio dell’Amore Misericordioso (Sanctuary of Merciful Love) with a basilica designed by the Spanish architect Giulio Lafuente in 1965.

This site was established in the 1950’s by Mother Speranza Alhama Valera (d. 1983) and a group of sisters from Spain. A devotion was established around an early 20th century crucifix, and it was so popular that a large basilica was built to accommodate the throngs of pilgrims.

The 150 foot high bell tower can be seen from a distance and the basilica looms at you on the hillside as you get closer. A large stairway brings you to the bronze entrance doors of the basilica. A large platform roof dominates the façade.

The interior space is almost a fastasy of shapes with circles, towers, cones, pillars, and skylights. The nave is in the space created between two rows of brick cylinders, six on each side. The ceiling is reinforced concrete. The altar is the central focus of the basilica. (The devotional crucifix is still in the chapel next door.)
Light comes into the basilica from many angles, with rays falling onto the brick in changing patterns as the sun moves across the sky. Diagonal clear windows on the ceiling cross above the altar, and vertical stained glass windows are from floor to ceiling along the walls. The side chapels are inside the large brick columns and they are capped with cone shaped skylights, adding more light to the building.


Cody said...

The Renaissance church is such a treasure. One wonders how the modern building will be regarded three hundred years from now--if it is even still standing then.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Larry. My name is Brigid and I'm trying to track down a church that has a mosaic of St. Mesalina. A friend of mine found a picture of this mosaic online and is hoping to contact the church to track down a professional photo. Does this mosaic ring a bell? Do you know which Church this might be?

Thank you for your help. Please contact me at if you're able to help.

Enjoy Rome!