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Monte Amiata

San Salvatore Abbey frecoes

Pictorial cycle by Nasini Brothers

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Abbadia San Salvatore
The 17th century remodelling of the San Salvatore abbey church on Monte Amiata required decoration as well as architectural modifications. From 1650 to 1694, the Nasini family (specifically Francesco, but also his brother Antonio Annibale) frescoed a pictorial cycle for the church.

Francesco was a most pleasing and sharp local narrator, beginning with the educational frescos in the church of the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Pietro in Piancastagnaio where there is a repertory of varied doctrinal elements. The pictorial cycle in the San Salvatore church documents the artist’s maturation as he moves from a more refrained 16th c. Sienese style to a more mannerist style preferred in the Cortona area.

The Nasini’s work are isolated and fragmented testimonials of the 17th century, a period that saw the most creative energy in the history of the monastery complex.

Certain portions of the church such as the transversal arches and the transept chapel are eclectic and vivacious representations of the lives of saints and Christian allegories.

Francesco Nasini and Antonio Annibale Nasini Arconi: Arches with the Evangelists, Apostles and saints of the Cistercian order.

The decoration of the transversal arches reveal a complex design which includes doctrinal and educational aspects that bring the figure of Saint Benedict, founder of the Trappist order, together with the western church doctors. The cycle was commissioned by the Abbot Orazio Adami, who ran the abbey from 1648 to 1659.

Francesco Nasini: Saints Marco Papa and Antonio Abate; Saints Abdon and Sennen; Apparition of the Savior to King Ratchis. The hunt of Ratchis with Virtue; the Risen Christ; Christ in Pietà; the Chapel of the Crucifix.

The decoration of the Chapel of the Crucifix, the first of the right transept, represents the synthesis between the traditional narrative of the abbey’s foundation and the celebration of the most celebrated local saints. The figure of the risen Christ faces the ‘false’ lantern in the arch.

As the scenes open up from right to left, Nasini’s style visibly changes as evidenced in the greater emphasis on the major figures. Opposite of the windows, Saints Abdon and Sennen are depicted, accompanied by the panther and the lion—the animals which killed the saints as they were martyred. On the right wall the Hunt of Ratchis is depicted, flanked by Chastity and Obedience animated by armed figures on horses (King Ratchis is on the far right, in the saddle of a curiously tense steed).

In the section of the upper arch, the composition features representations of Faith, Charity and Hope. In the friezes are scenes from Jesus Praying in the Garden and the Flagellation of Christ.

In the wainscot there are two allegorical figures from Mount Amiata (crowned by chestnut fronds and with the undeniably shape of the mountain in his hand) and the Paglia River (leaning on the pitcher from which the water springs).

Under the base wall, Francesco Nasini designed two funerary monuments: one for Abbot Ottavio Rocca (d. 1636) and another for Paolo Marzocchi.

The altarpiece strongly communicates with the crucifix in the chapel. On it is the depiction of the Pietà, brought to life with an unusual lighting technique used in the candle in the middle of the composition. The votive chapel painted by Nasini confirms his iconography tied to the story of the Benedictine order and its principles which served as motives for his religious devotion.

Abbadia San Salvatore
From the age-old abbey to the mining museum, discover one of the loveliest towns in the Monte Amiata area
The lovely Abbadia San Salvatore is in the town closest to the top of Monte Amiata as the crow flies, as well as one of the best-known tourist destinations in the area. The famous Abbazia di San Salvatore was believed to have been built in 762 by the Longobard duke Ratchis and the age-old town developed around the famous abbey, whose importance has never been lost down the centuries. ...