Dwight Peck's personal Web site

Sirmione and the neighborhood, May 2016

Ten days in the home of the Scaligeri and the heretics



You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Mantua (2): Walkabout, Camera degli Sposi, Duomo

We've been wandering about in the picture galleries of the Ducal Palace, and now we're back out in front of the Palazzo del Capitano part of the complex.

The street market is packing up for the day.

We've taken the notion that we'll look for the excellent apartment we stayed in the last time we were here, La Cervetta, but we can't remember where it is. This is the Piazza Arche, across from the Teatro Bibiena, where Mozart played as a 13-year-old.

The Palazzo Sordi (as it turns out, La Cervetta is directly behind this monstrosity, but we went the other way).

The Loggia dei Mercanti on Via Baldassare Castiglione and Via Pietro Calvi (Castiglione, 16th century diplomat and famous author of The Courtier, was a Mantovani).

The Loggia dei Mercanti facing Via Giovanni Battista Spagnolo

The back of the Rotonda and the clocktower

The Piazza Concordia, with the Rotonda, clocktower, and Palazza della Ragione from the Via Giustiziata round the back

Our appointment's coming up for the Camera degli Sposi, or Bridal Chamber, in the Castello di San Giorgio

We've left the Piazza Sordello, through the gates into the Piazza Castello backed onto the Castle of St George

A Google maps screenshot showing the Castello di San Giorgio (built 1395-1406) and the Basilica di S. Barbara tacked onto the southeastern end of the Ducal Palace. The Mantegna Bridal Chamber is in the largest of the four towers of the castle.

We're too early, and it's been officially suggested that we go and cool our heels in the Basilica Palatina di Santa Barbara next door.

The Piazza Castello with the archway on the right leading into the Piazza Santa Barbara

Built for the Gonzagas as a family church in 1562-1572, a single nave with a raised presbytery and altar, and with bold light streaming down from the lantern tower onto the crossing in front of the altar. There are two side altars, and there is a crypt under the presbytery. According to Wikipedia, "Recently the remains of four dukes and other members of the Gonzaga family, including those of Guglielmo, were discovered in the church" [it was Duke Guglielmo who commissioned the church].

A big party in Simon the Leper's house, with the sinful lady anointing feet -- she was traditionally identified as Mary Magdalene, and we collect pictures of Mary Magdalene, but this one wasn't she. By Ippolito Andreasi of Mantua, a pupil of Giulio Romano's, 1572.

A side altar with a picture of the 'Baptism of Constantine' by the Mantovani Lorenzo Costa the Younger, second half of the 16th century.

On closer inspection, the picture is unintelligible in this lighting, but the fun thing is the wheelbarrow load of tiny bones of famous saints and martyrs that surrounds it.

Each with its little paper label on it (that's some of St Paul down there near the bottom)

Finally it's time for our Mantegna viewing.

Up the passageway connecting the piazza with the castle

Up the spiral stair

The Camera degli Sposi ("Bridal Chamber"), also called the Camera Picta or "Painted Chamber"), painted by Andrea Mantegna for Ludovico III Gonzaga between 1465 and 1474.

The scenes are painted within a trompe l'oeil loggia with the countryside visible behind the figures. The "Meeting Scene" shows Marquis Ludovico welcoming his son, Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga, supposedly in the presence of the Emperor Frederick III and Christian I, King of Denmark.

The more famous painting the "Court Scene" shows Ludovico, seated at left, receiving a message from a courier, whilst his wife Barbara is seated opposite surrounded by other family members, and with a group of courtiers on the right. In their cute tights.

A trompe l'oeil opening in the ceiling, or oculus, with little putti in perspective

The Gonzaga family circa 1470, with dwarf

Serious people: Luigi I Gonzaga, 14th century founder of the dynasty, Capitano del Popolo of Mantua and Imperial Vicar or agent of the Emperor, patron of Petrarch, and the Marquess Francesco II Gonzaga, husband of Isabella d'Este from 1490 and boyfriend of Lucrezia Borgia from 1503, both by the workshop of Fermo Guisoni or Ghisoni of Mantova, mid- to late-16th century

This is the Castello di San Giorgio facing the lake. We took these photos in 2011.

The Cattedrale di San Pietro apostolo or Duomo di Mantua, across the Piazza Sordello from the Ducal Palace -- there was a Paleo-Christian church on the site, apparently another that burnt down in 894, which was replaced in the Romanesque style possibly by Countess Matilda of Canossa herself. That one was elaborated between 1395 and 1401 at the direction of Francesco I Gonzaga, and then rebuilt again, especially the interior, by Giulio Romano in 1545 after another fire. The belltower dates from the earlier Romanesque iteration.

The marble façade, however, was added in 1756-1761.

A Latin cross with a nave and four aisles, with barrel vaulting on the inner two aisles, like this one, and side chapels off the outer aisles.

Lots of famous people are still here, resting quietly: St Anselm II of Lucca, the patron saint of Mantova, friend of the Countess Matilda; Bonifacio of Canossa, Matilda's dad; Barbara of Brandenburg and Eleanor of Austria, Gonzaga wives; lots of Mantovan bishops; and many many Gonzagas -- Luigi, Filipino, Ludovico III, Cardinal Ercole; Ferrante Gonzaga of Guastalla, Emperor Charles V's go-to fixer; bishops Federico and Francesco Gonzaga, and many more. No celebrities or racing car drivers, though.

The presbytery and altar

Mantoved out, it's back to Sirmione now

Beautiful countryside on the back roads north toward Lago di Garda

Villages along the way

The now-familiar Castello Scaligero in Sirmione

A contemplative couple outside the Hotel Grifone

Late afternoon at the Castello Scaligero, from our balcony

-- Bless you.


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 30 July 2016.


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