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Basilica of San Bernardino da Siena

Against the city skyline in L'Aquila stands out the dome of St Bernardine's, the largest Renaissance church in Abruzzi. The church rises on a double flight of stairs, the former of 15 steps and the latter, on the other side of the street, long and wide, leading to Via Fortebraccio and out of the city. The church was built after the death of Bernardine from Siena (1380-1444), a Franciscan and one of the most effective and widely known preachers of his day, who lived in L'Aquila for some time and there he founded the congregation later called St. Bernardine's Friars.

Click on the picture to print themClick on the picture to print themTo stop the feuds between the families of the city, he promoted the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus and created the monogram with the letters JHS, which can still be seen on many doorways of the town (in the picture, the monogram in the ceiling). The Basilica was begun in 1454, a few years after the Saint's death by his Aquilan disciples John from Capestrano and James della Marca, and went on for about twenty years. The façade was designed by Cola dell'Amatrice and consists of three orders in the different classical styles: doric, ionic and corynthian to express the 16th century ideal of a perfect fusion of Greek and Latin forms with the Christian heritage. At the same time, with its portals and rosewindows the church summarizes the whole heritage of Aquilan religious architecture. The three orders are separated by horizontal frames and by four couples of columns outlining nine fields: the bottom ones with three portals, the central fields with two rosewindows and a triple central window, and the top ones with JHS monograms and a rosewindow.

Click on the picture to print themClick on the picture to print them The Baroque interior is 96m long and was completely rebuilt after the 1703 earthquake; it is divided into three aisles that join into the vast poligonal ambient under the dome. The ceiling in wood and sequin gold is the work of Fernando Mosca, a great artist from Pescocostanzo, who also made the big organ. In the ceiling s large St. Bernardine's monogram and paintings by Neapolitan Girolamo Cenatempo (XVIII century).

In a chapel in the right aisle there is St. Bernardine's mausoleum, the most relevant Renaissance sculpture in Abruzzi, whose construction was entrusted to Silvestro dell'Aquila, a pupil of Donatello's, who worked on it until his death in 1504; Silvestro made the project and the main figures, while other artists, Angiolo from Arischia and Salvato Romano, completed the decorations. Inside the mausoleum the saint's body is preserved, within a silver and crystal urn, which is opened on 20th may each ear to place cotton wool on tha saint's body, and distribute them to faithfuls. On that day also a procession from Siena come to bring sacred oil used for the confirmations.

Other great works in the church are the marble sepulchre of Maria Pereyra-Camponeschi (1488), Silvestro dell'Aquila's masterpiece, then in second chapel of the right aisle an altarpiece by Andrea della Robbia, consisting of an enamelled earthenpiece against a blue background representing the Resurrection of Christ, the Incoronation of the Virgin among the Angels, and four smallest scenes with the Visitation, Nativity, Magi Adoration and Circumcision.

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