Modena have many attractions: one of these is Modena Cathedral is one of those spectacular architectures that remains in your heart.
There is nothing to do: even if you’re a Modenese citizen passing in front of it a million of times in your life, every time is like the first and the “wow” effect is guaranteed.
Modena Cathedral is, in fact, not only an invaluable and unique example of Romanesque art in the world, but also a monument that still surprises for its beauty and its originality.
Why will Modena Cathedral strike you?
I’ve studied the history and characteristics of Modena Cathedral because I’ve recently written an article for “Il Turista”, an important Italian web journal about tourism, that has welcomed me in its editorial staff in order to speak obviously about… Modena! 🙂
I’m very pleased and honored about that: thinking to have the possibility of speaking about Modena also in other places of the web it’s a real pleasure. Moreover, I can study in deep themes, like architecture, that probably I’d have treat in a different way. And so… more I learn about Modena Cathedral and more I fell in love with it! 🙂
In this article, it is not my intention to speak about the details of Modena Cathedral, as I did in the one I have indicated you just above, that I invite you to read, but I’d like to give you 3 interesting ideas to think about.
An heritage for all
First of all you need to know that Modena Cathedral has joined the list of monuments UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, together with “our” beloved Ghirlandina and the beautiful Piazza Grande. So, it is not only precious for Modena, Emilia Romagna and Italy, but also for the world!
Since its origin it was in this way: Modena Cathedral was created as heritage of the entire community.
As the great actor Dario Fo has defined it, in one of his magistral show, Modena Cathedral was and is the “temple of free men”.
Its realization, in fact, was strongly supported by Modenese citizens in order to affirm the values of their community, so much that they were the ones who choose the artists: Lanfranco, the architect, and Wiligelmo, the sculptor. Works began on 9 June 1099.
For the first time in the medieval history the names of the artists were associated to their work. We found them on two marble signs: one, in honor of Wiligemo, on the main door of the cathedral, and the other, dedicated to Lanfranco, in the central apse. It hasn’t never happen before, in the same way it hasn’t never happen that you don’t find anywhere the names of the customers. This testifies the “popular” will at the basis of this architecture.
Modena Cathedral is “San Geminiano’s home”
One of the the principal reasons of its realization was the wish to give an home to San Geminiano’s remains, the saint, bishop and patron of the city, who died in 397.
We don’t have many documentation about him. He know that he lived in IV century AD and that he is the protagonist of some legends, first of all the one related to the his designation as bishop. The legend tells that, once his predecessor died, they were the citizens that persisted in order to persuade him to become bishop. However, the most known story about him is the one that tells the episode in which, during barbarian invasions, he saved Modena from Attila’s army making the fog covering the city.
The crypt of the cathedral keep in safe San Geminiano’s remains that are showed the believers every 31st of January.
Modena Cathedral is a “stone book”
Who defined our cathedral in this way was able to find the right description.
What strikes you observing its external sculptural details are the hundreds of representations engraved on marble.
There is an entire story told in the many bas-reliefs, in the capitals of the columns, in the inserts and in tombstones; a story that Modenese community wanted to hand down in order to tell about herself and her commitment.
If you look the facade, for example, you can see the four big sheets Reliefs from Genesis made by Wiligelmo. A true “stone Bible” in which are shown, as in a great theater, the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and Noah’s ark.
Even the details of the jambs and lintels of doors narrate many stories. The sculptures of “Portale Maggiore”, the main portal, strike you for the characters that inhabit them: lions, dragons, centaurs, frightening figures alternate themselves with images of prophets and patriarchs. They are sculptures of a unique beauty, rich of precious details that make perfect this story. Whenever I stop to admire them I remain enchanted.
There are many other sculptural details that deserve a mention, as the Metopes, the eight reliefs (four for each side) located on the roof projections, visible on the sides of the cathedral. These works, whose originals are kept in the “Epigraphic Museum”, depict fantastic creatures, which sometimes looked human and sometimes not, each with a specific meaning explained well within the Museum.
Modena Cathedral is a work that should be studied, observed in all its details, breathed and… lived.
One of the things I love to do on a sunny day is sitting on the steps of the “Porta Regia”, near the two great lions, and observing the square and the city life.
I’m not the only one who love to do it: you will always find someone here intent on experiencing the city! 🙂