Amalfi (2 of 3)
Bill Austin, Barry Nelson, Jon Kaiser
Ital333, Prof. Barbara
Nucci, March 1999
In the 10th Century at the height of its commercial
expansion, Amalfi was coining its own money, and its
ships were trading in Tripoli, Alexandria, Tunisia, and
(Matonti, 23). These varied contacts inevitably
led to the importation and exportation of culture, ideas, and people.
For example, in 1020 people from Amalfi built the church of S. Giovanni
l’Elomosiniere in Jerusalem (Converso, 117).
Events in Italy
BC - 1300 AD
AD - 1998 AD
even had a Jewish minority (Hearder, 54).
Arab influence is evident in the construction of the Cathedral of S. Andrew,
the Duomo of Amalfi, and its adjoining cloister, and the Arab process of
paper manufacture which Amalfi adopted and introduced to the rest of Italy.
An old paper mill is preserved as a museum and the hand made paper can
still be bought today. These last three, the Cathedral, Cloister,
and paper museum will be the focus of the rest of out visit through Amalfi.
In the center of Amalfi, to paraphrase
Peter Gabriel, stands a big church for a big God. The sight of this
cathedral dedicated to S. Andrew with its 62 wide, steep steps and of its
off-center bell tower is awe-inspiring. The outer façade is oversized
and dominates the attention of passers-by. The cathedral was begun
in the 9th Century, perhaps on the foundation of an earlier chapel (Roman?)
(De Vero, 54). It was modified and retouched
several times and was nearly completely reconstructed in 1700. On
the original Romantic foundation, Byzantine, Arab-Norman, Gothic, and Baroque
elements were superimposed (De Vero, 55).
The inside of the cathedral is
large by any standard. Beautiful, majestic Roman columns with
perfect capitals abound, side by side with Baroque gold decorations,
frescoes, and marble of white, blue, green, and red. Below the
cathedral is the Chapel of Christ Crucified were the Baroque sacredness
is more fully expressed.
There in lies the crypt containing the remains of S. Andrew
brought back from Constantinople during the IV Crusade. The atrium
of the cathedral is in a Gothic style and the bronze doors of the portal
can be seen here. The doors were custom made for cathedral in Constantinople
in 1066. The bell tower is the other prominent feature from the piazza.
It was begun in 1180 and not finished until over a century later.
It is in a Romanesque style with four small Arab style towers decorated
with interlaced arches, and covered by bright green and yellow majolica
tiles. It was also used as a defense in times of war (Matonti,
The most beautiful place
is arguable the Chiostro del Paradiso or the Cloister of Paradise.
The slim white columns and very pointed slim arches have a strong Arab
feel to it. It dates back to 1266 and preserves Roman and medieval
archaeological remains with fragments of the original cathedral (De
Vero, 57). It was originally a cemetery for the noble families
of Amalfi. Today, however, it preserves a moment in time. With
the bell tower directly overhead and palm trees, it’s a very peaceful place
to stop and contemplate the history that surrounds you, and where else
can you buy a walk through paradise for only 3000 Lire?
Adjoining the cloister is the Diocesan Museum
of Sacred Art. It is housed in what was the original cathedral of Amalfi, dating from the 6th Century. It was originally a 5-nave structure.
However, the construction of the Duomo on one side and of the Cloister
on the other took out 3 naves. It reveals some of the oldest elements
of the structures: Roman columns, walls built on top and in front of other
walls, mosaics of the original floors, and frescoes painted into small
side chapels. The museum is full of sacred art and history and can
not be reasonably passed up.
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