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Marcello Lotti - Fiesole Musei - Translated by Susan Glasspool

The Chapel of San Jacopo at Fiesole

The Chapel of San Iacopo: a splendid receptacle for the sacred gold and silverware of the Diocese of Fiesole. Unknown even to most of the townspeople of Fiesole (it was used as a Caritas collection centre for years), the Chapel of San Iacopo was once the chapel of the Palazzo Vescovile of Fiesole; it does in fact still belong to it but now has independent access onto the road leading from Piazza Mino to the Convent of San Francesco. Probably constructed by Iacopo il Bavaro in the first half of the 11th century, the oratory was altered several times over the centuries, though it changed little after the early the 15th century, when the splendid “Coronation of the Virgin Mary between Angels and Saints” was frescoed on the front wall. Further alterations were carried out by Bishop Neri Altoviti in the 18th century, leaving the chapel as we see it today, especially now that the Diocese has restored the splendid 18th century decorations on the walls.
At the same time the Florentine Board of Artistic Assets made it possible to restore the great fresco, a majestic portrayal of the Coronation of the Virgin surrounded by the celestial hierarchies. Christ and the Virgin are enclosed in an almond-shaped frame with angelic musicians on either side, and two groups of saints below, headed by St. John the Baptist on the left and St. David on the right. The fresco is definitely attributed to Bicci di Lorenzo, the Florentine painter active from the late 14th to the mid 15th century and very popular in Fiesole, where he left two great altarpieces that can be admired in the cathedral and the Church of S. Francesco. The painting of the Apostle James the Elder in the central lunette was instead carried out in the 19th century by Antonio Marini to replace a late 16th century work by Nicodemo Ferrucci. The Chapel’s restoration means that it can now not only be admired by the general public but that it can also host a rich collection of religious furnishings that come from all over the Diocese of Fiesole. Up until now they have been kept in storage in the Diocesan Curia for security reasons. The 50 works on display span the period from the 12th to the 20th century, and not only testify to the ecclesiastic vitality of the Diocese of Fiesole - one of the largest in Tuscany - but also to the historic and stylistic evolution of this form of art, often wrongly considered a minor one. The crucifixes, chalices, ostensories, thuribles, all beautifully restored by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, show the gradual development in the manufacture of religious gold and silverware in Florence and Tuscany, passing from late Gothic sobriety and Baroque exuberance, Renaissance monumentalism and antireformist linearism to the eclecticism of the 20th century. Certain objects in the collection stand out for their unique artistic value and original execution, like the so-called “mitre of St. Romulus”, one of the most famous and important works of goldsmithery in Tuscany. The mitre was carried out between 1456 and 1466 in velvet and silver, with rich enamelled decorations in the style of Ghiberti, and once belonged to Bishop Leonardo Salutati. A great many objects date from the 16th century, like the silver “pastoral staff” (circa 1570), and the unusual “processional cross”, carried out by Girolamo di Martino Spigliati (1568-69) for the Church of Santa Maria Primerana, whose enamelled Moorish-style base makes it quite unique in the history of Tuscan goldsmithery. The objects that date from the 17th-18th century instead include an elegant chalice from Nipozzano, carried out by the well known Florentine goldsmith, Francesco Vandi, and an exquisite silver tray engraved with acanthus leaves, attributed to the silversmith Cosimo Mari. Free entrance to visitors to the Fiesole Museums (All-in-one ticket: Full price L. 12.000 - Reduced tickets L. 8.000 - Families L. 28.000).

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