Art and culture - Churches
The Cathedral of S. Giovenale
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The votive chapel which housed the first burial of the Saint, still complete, although the reliquary has been moved into the new confessional, was hollowed out of the city walls a short distance from the Roman Arch. As worship of the Saint spread, around the year One Thousand, the season of cathedrals led the local townspeople to build thei own. Building started in 1047 and the cathedral was consecrated one century later, by Pope Eugenius III, in 1145. The opportunity to join the primitive oratory with the new church led to building of the fourth nave, which remains an unusual feature of the building.

The house of Giovenale: a sacred place

The other original feature of the building, which has a number of unusual architectural features, is the arches between the columnsof the central nave. These are so-called segmental or "flat" arches, which are extremely flattened, as if being compressed from above, and also typical of other Romanesque buildings in Narni.

The same arch also appears on the portico and the nave of the Church of Santa Maria Impensole (built in 1175 on sloping land at the entrance to Via Mazzini just after leaving Piazza dei Priori). The real invention is found, however in the nave at a lower level than the crypt. The altar is turned towards the netrance of the church (the opposite direction to the main altar above) and the altarpiece is not a painting on canvas of an effigy of the saint, but a clear windowthrought which it is possible to look up and see the marble urn containing the remains of tha saint. So not a depiction, but the actual saint himself! Walking up the staircase on the left to ground level, and looking up again, the marble effigy of the saint on the church bell tower is visible. There are constant references to the patron saint and this is truly a place of workship, a continuum of unusual features, works of art and architecture, of which only several examples may be described here. The polyptych attributed to the Siena painter, Lorenzo di Pietro, called "Il Vecchietta", shows a handsome image of Saint Juvenal in his papal vestments. A signed and dated (1474) monumental wooden sculpture from the Narni workshop of the same artist (and originally located in another church in the town) is a decidedly lifelike depiction of Saint Anthony the Abbot. Livio Agresti, from Forlì, leaves an altarpiece showing delivery of the keys to Saint Peter with two slinghtly trangressive "details": the author'ssignature on a clearly visible scroll, even though the Council of Trento had censured this custom.

Another unusual feature is the "lay fresco" on the counter-facade, depicting delivery of the charters to the city magistrates and an intriguing gable in the vault of the chapel of Beata Lucia, where Francesco Trevisani has painted her bridegroom entering the matrimonial bedchamber with his sword unsheated, determined to cleanse with blood the shame of the man lying on the unmade bed. But this is a "mystical bridegroom" and everything will end without bloodshep. We are looking at a small manifestation of the counter-reform.

And how many times is the gryphon, the mythological animal which is the heraldic symbol of the town, still an exclusive element of the coat of arms and the standard, sculpted into the walls of the Cathedral? many times, symbolising the close and uninterrupted bond between Narni and its Cathedral, a place of workship, but also one of civic pride.

The Ring Race
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