A Romanesque jewel in the centre of Tuscany
Volterra’s cathedral, religious heart of the city and its territory,
admirable example of medieval architecture
Religious and artistic heart of the city of Volterra, Piazza San Giovanni hosts the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the Baptistry, remarkable examples of Romanesque style and of invaluable works of art.
When you travel to Valdicecina, a visit to Volterra’s Duomo is a must, since it has been a prestigious seat of the bishops over the centuries.
The church, with its square, is the religious centre of the community life – the opposite as well as the mirror of the Piazza dei Priori – the political core of the ancient Commune.
You can admire the works kept inside among which stands out the Group of five sculptures depicting the “Deposition of Christ from the Cross” made of carved polychrome wood. The big complex of sculptures of the 13th century is among the most important and best preserved ones.
Historical documents reveal that the Cathedral was consecrated in 1120. The amplification of the Cathedral in the 13th century and the Romanesque-Pisan facade are attributed to Nicola Pisano while the transept and choir date to the 14th century. The interior was completely modified in the 16th century by Bishop Guido Serguidi. There are three naves divided by stuccoed columns with capitals by Leonardo Ricciarelli. The Cathedral was completely restored and heavily redecorated in 1842-43.
Noteworthy Works of Art
➊ Madonna dei Chierici attributed to Francesco Valdambrino.
➋ Marble ciborium by Mino da Fiesole, signed and dated 1471.
➋ In the apse, wooden Gothic choir with Bishop’s throne, end of the 14th century.
➌ 13th century wood polychrome figures of the Deposition.
➍ The pulpit was reassembled at the end of the 16th century with 13th century reliefs.
➎➏. In the chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, a 15th century Nativity and Adoration in painted terra cotta, attributed to the Della Robbia workshop. Behind the Nativity a fresco by Benozzo Gozzoli dated 1479.
➐ In the second altar on the left nave, Annunciation by Mariotto Albertinelli (1497).
There is also:
There is also: the funeral monuments of Volterran Saints Ugo and Ottaviano, the paintings of Saint Paul in the chapel of the Holy Sacrament, the funeral monument of Mario Maffei and two marble angel candle holders. The painted wooden ceiling depicts paradise with the patron saints of Volterra and the Assumption to which the Cathedral is dedicated.
THE DEPOSITION IN POLYCHROME WOOD
A group of five sculptures depicting the Deposition of Christ from the cross (Christ, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, the Madonna and Saint John the Evangelist, a cross and ladder) in poplar wood, painted and gilded with silver and gold leaf. This group of sculptures preserved “ab antiquo” is one of the most important and best preserved of the wooden sculptures of the 13th century. The group in Volterra not only retains the figures but also its original ladder and cross.
The Baptistry of Volterra
From the ancient pagan temple to a symbol of the Christian faith:
the baptistry, ancient proof of faith
An integrating part of the religious complex of the cathedral of Volterra, the baptistry dates back to before the year 1000 and on the outside offers the beautiful alternation of light and dark stones, with a striking and elegant polychrome play.
The interior, simple and solemn, invites to meditation and reflection, allowing to look at the precious artworks kept here, among which especially the altar and the baptismal fount.
Tradition has it that the Baptistry erected in front of the Cathedral was built on what was once a pagan temple. No reference to this fact is to be found in the first document which speaks of the baptismal church of Saint John built in 989.
The façade in black and white marble and the portal date to the 13th century. Above the architrave are the sculpted heads of Christ, the Virgin, the Apostles and an inscription with the date 1283. Traces can still be seen of where the walls were raised, possibly to sustain the dome. Archive documents refer to the interest Brunelleschi took in the construction of the dome.
The interior still maintains its simple, solemn, harmonious form. The marble frieze which frames the altar was begun by Mino da Fiesole at the end of the 15th century. In 1505 Sansovino sculptured the white marble baptismal font, now placed in the corner, depicting the Baptism of Christ and the virtues of Faith, Hope, Charity and Justice. The present baptismal font by the Carrara sculptor, Giovanni Vaccà, was commissioned by the Volterran Archbishop of Pisa, Francesco Salvatico Guidi, in 1757. Another Volterran, Francesco Gaetano Incontri, Archbishop of Florence, commissioned the marble altar in 1760. Four years later, the wood panel of the Ascension painted by Niccolò Cercignani in 1591, originally from the church of S.Marco nei Borghi, was placed above the altar.