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Modena (World Heritage)

Modena was once the headquarters of the ruling Este family and has numerous sights such as the Cathedral of San Geminiano (11th / 12th century), one of the most outstanding Romanesque buildings in Europe. According to internetsailors, the building complex with the free-standing Torre Ghirlandina and the Piazza Grande symbolizes the wealth and influence of Italian cities.

Modena: facts

Official title: Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande in Modena
Cultural monument: Romanesque cathedral by Lanfranco, with sculptures by Wiligelmus and changes in the 12th / 14th centuries. Century, 88 m high bell tower and Palazzo Municipal with Torre dell’Orologio
Continent: Europe
Country: Italy, Emilia-Romagna
Location: Modena, on the edge of the Po Valley
Appointment: 1997
Meaning: the cathedral as one of the most important Romanesque buildings in Europe, with the Torre Ghirlandina and the Piazza Grande an ensemble as a symbol of the wealth and power of Italian cities

Modena: history

183 BC roman colony
45 BC Chr. Scene of the power struggle between Brutus and Mark Antony
4th century destruction
5th century Task of the city
8-10 Century Reconstruction around the bishop’s palace
1099 Start of construction of the cathedral
1116 Modena free municipality, participation in the Lombard city union against Emperor Barbarossa
1169 Start of construction of the five-story Torre Ghirlandina
1178 Construction of the Porta Regia of the cathedral
1184 Consecration of the cathedral
1288 Rule of the Estonians
1319 Completion of the Torre Ghirlandina
1336 Seizure of power by the Estonians of Ferrara
1598 Modena as the capital of the Duchy of Este and new bloom
1634 Construction of the ducal palace as the residence of the von Este family
1796 Entry of French troops
1814-59 Rule of the Dukes Francesco IV and Francesco V., who came from the House of Austria-Este.
1860 Union with the new Kingdom of Italy
2007/8 Restoration of the cathedral

Mystery play made of stone

A book made of white stone: like a dictionary of pictures, Modena Cathedral contains everything that seemed worth knowing nine centuries ago. Evangelists and prophets, angels and demons, monsters and men with lettuce beards – the sculptor Wiligelmus immortalized the fantastic bestiary of its time in the cathedral. “How much honor you deserve, O Wiligelmus, among the sculptors, shows your work here”, the master was praised in a facade inscription, which is flanked by the prophets Enoch and Elias, by two men who pleased God so much that he did them brought him to paradise while he was still alive. Two immortals here praise genius; a phenomenon for the Middle Ages, when artists remained anonymous.

“Wiligelmus is the ancestor of my theater,” said Dario Fo, author of evil satirical plays, who ridiculed today’s powerful people, but is also a specialist in medieval dramas. He and Wiligelmus have the same ancestors, the Nobel Prize winner is convinced: namely the Lombards. This Germanic people brought wit and irony into the stale climate of post-ancient times. “Fos elective affinities can no longer be proven because one and a half millennia is too long a time,” says Dr. Enrica Pagella, the former director of the Museo Civico d’Arte in Modena, but: “It is certain that Wiligelmus embodies the symbiosis between the uneducated north and the classical music of the south.” He left his personal calling card on the cathedral facade. Recent research confirms Fo’s instinct: Wiligelmus did not use the Old Testament as a template for the “Reliefstrip” from the creation story, but a medieval play. »Jeu d’Adam«, »Adam’s Game«, only put on paper in 1175, but co-authored by the sculptor at least 50 years earlier. Because the small text passages that he adds to the scenes like a caption are also in the original. Even the choir of the prophets, finale of the mystery play, has marched up in the main portal. are also in the original. Even the choir of the prophets, finale of the mystery play, has marched up in the main portal. are also in the original. Even the choir of the prophets, finale of the mystery play, has marched up in the main portal.

The builder Lanfranco saw the model of the cathedral, a three-aisled nave basilica with a free-standing campanile, in the sacred buildings of Byzantine Ravenna. Seven years after the laying of the foundation stone, construction had progressed so far that the remains of the city’s patron saint Geminiano could be transferred to the new crypt. In addition to Wiligelmus’ pictorial program, a rose window in the facade and the pompous Porta Regia appeared as characteristic architectural decorations. The originally flat wooden ceilings were replaced by brick vaults, and thanks to the massive terracotta art, the interior of the cathedral was designed into a mystical, warm “belly”, while outside Wiligelmus the cool marble effect prevails.

On the facade, God and man carved in stone move on the same level. From the beginning it is written on their faces that things are not easy for them. Adam bites the forbidden apple with such malicious pleasure that you can literally hear it crack. After this insane act, there is clearly a shame. Abel, slain by Cain, falls into a film with the verve of a stuntman. Mr and Mrs Noah look out of the ark with an elegant haircut, as if they hadn’t just had the flood but a cruise behind them. Freedom is part of the grace of the beginning. Wiligelmus uses it, is “primitive” and direct, but also virtuoso with a wink. No more stereotypical scenes and faces, but characters made of flesh and blood are the focus: God is so human, and the heroes of the Old Testament emerge from the façade in an extremely sculptural image in the image of God. In Wiligelmus’ cycle everything fits into the event of salvation, even the hermaphrodite, who shows his gender on the top of a buttress with legs spread apart. At the end of the world, according to medieval maps, there are curious types who are displayed as metopes on the roof: Christ died a sacrificial death for all of creation, including them.

The Ghirlandina, the campanile named after the stone garland under the top, is also a monument to Modenese identity. It is a fire station, treasury, community archive and, of course, a bell tower, a “secular-sacral index finger”, just as the Piazza Grande is a catwalk for vanities and processions. The mayor and bishop watch each other in the urban synthesis of the arts – a red-black mixed culture for the best of the city.

Modena (World Heritage)