Church of Santa Maria della Pieve in Arezzo
Church in Arezzo
The Parish Church of Santa Maria in Arezzo is not only known for its impressive bell tower but also stands as a remarkable architectural and sculptural masterpiece. As you approach the church, you’ll be captivated by its grandeur, resembling a gigantic and extraordinary sculpture adorned with meticulously crafted columns and elegant capitals that embellish its facade and large apse. Numerous sculptures also adorn the facade and the right side of the church, including the delightful allegorical representations of the twelve months, situated above the central doorway, which often go unnoticed by visitors.
The construction of this church commenced in the mid-12th century, occupying the site of an earlier baptismal church in the city. While the overall shape and size of the church were established at that time, the facade was originally simpler and more linear. The Romanesque-style facade, similar to that found in the Pisa region, which we see today, was erected in the 13th century, along with the construction of the imposing bell tower, reaching a towering height of nearly sixty meters, and completed in 1330.
The external view of the Parish Church of Santa Maria Assunta in Arezzo reveals it to be one of the most extraordinary examples of Romanesque architecture in Tuscany and beyond. Stepping inside, you’ll find the interior equally impressive, characterized by the remarkable height of the three naves, a unique feature among Romanesque churches in Arezzo. Columns and pillars, topped with intricately adorned capitals that support round arches, divide the three naves. A distinctive architectural feature is the elevated presbytery, with a crypt underneath it housing a reliquary bust of St. Donatus.
The interior architecture of the church is truly captivating, offering a variety of perspectives to visitors. As you explore clockwise within the church, you’ll come across two 13th-century marble bas-reliefs by an unknown artist. One depicts St. Joseph, while the other portrays the Magi paying homage to the infant Jesus in the Virgin’s lap.
Further along, a door on the left wall leads to the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, adorned with frescoes by the painter Luigi Ademollo from the early 19th century. A fresco attributed to Andrea di Nerio from the 14th century, featuring St. Francis and St. Dominic, adorns the left pillar supporting the presbytery. Ascending the presbytery via the left staircase, you’ll encounter a splendid crucifix painted by Margaritone d’Arezzo from the late 13th century. At the centre of the presbytery stands the exquisite polyptych by the Sienese painter Pietro Lorenzetti, a tempera and gold on wood masterpiece dating back to 1320.
Descending from the presbytery via the right staircase, you’ll find a beautiful 19th-century stained glass window on the wall. Before exiting, take a moment to visit the expansive crypt located beneath the presbytery. Along the right wall, you’ll encounter a striking wooden crucifix from the 17th century by an anonymous artist. Finally, the baptistery of the parish church, located in the corner between the right wall and the counter-façade, beneath the bell tower, features a stone Baptismal Font adorned with three large, finely carved marble panels, considered an important work from the 14th century.
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