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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 Constantinople (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)

A Chronology of
Events in Italy

60,000 BC - 1300 AD

1300 AD - 1998 AD

Amalfi 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, 32)

        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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