I feel after my last couple of Genoese* posts it is time for something a little more salubrious, and so staying in Maddalena, let’s step into the church itself.
The full name is actually “The church of St. Mary Magdalene and St. Jerome Emiliani ” but to all and sundry it’s known as Santa Maria Maddalena, and as I mentioned it is located along what was once a Roman road running through this area, though when the church appeared is unknown. The first record of a structure on the site dates back to 1140 when there is documentation detailing a fire. Presumably there was then a 12th century version, but the current structure was begun in the late 16th Century and continued into the mid 17th. It’s easy to understand why it took so long to complete a small church when you step inside. Despite the decoration has been update and retouched fairly constantly ever since.
Oddly there are three aisles, totally unnecessary in a building of this size, which apparently were installed in a blatant act of plagiarism inspired by the nearby San Siro. A Catholic order called the Theatre Fathers had abandoned Santa Maria in favour of the larger San Siro just before the current structure was built.
As a result of this design there is less light; frustrating for me as a photographer as I was en route elsewhere and didn’t have time to start unpacking a tripod, but I put it down to a deliberate policy to preserve the work inside.
The vaulting over these aisles, the central dome, the walls above the peripheral altars… there are frescoes everywhere, so much so that they become overwhelming and instead it was something else that caught my eye. The gilding.
I was to see it elsewhere in Genoese churches, but it took my breath away here. I don’t recall as much of it in other Italian churches that I’ve visited, but perhaps I have and those memories were overwritten by Croatian interiors. As a result of this, and the dome providing my major light source I ended up developing what is rapidly becoming my signature shot. Remember something like this in Castle Howard?
*I find it hard not to laugh whenever I use the term Genoese – too many hours spent watching the Great British Bake-Off I think. I could adopt the Italian spelling (Genova) and refer to Genovese, but that how many readers would give the extra syllable?. I wonder if I’ll have reconciled this dilemma by the time I finished this series of posts?