The Diocesan Museum was founded in 1940 by Bishop Filippo Maria Cipriani following the discovery of the “Treasure of Canoscio” (6th century AD), at the shrine of the same name in Trestina di Città di Castello. The museum space was set up at the sacristy of the Basilica Cathedral of Santi Florido and Amanzio in just two rooms; Subsequently expanded in 1991 in adjoining and oldest rooms of the fourteenth and fifteenth century. The current seat, inside the ancient Rectory, dates to the year 2000: the twelve rooms, of which a majestic Gothic Hall were all subjected to a laborious restoration work, which brought them back to their original appearance.
It was accidentally found in the spring of 1935 in Canoscio, in the south of Città di Castello. It was stacked, covered by a large plate which was shattered by the strike of the vomer at the time of discovery. Rare example of Early Christian Art, consists of 25 objects including plates, paten, chalices, a pyx with lid, colanders, a small coppery and a good number of spoons. The absence of religious signs in objects that are usually provided with them, such as the chalice and the pyx and the presence of tools extraneous to the liturgy, as is the case, for example, of the copper and spoons, have suggested that they were originally household instruments, subsequently donated to a Christian community and then specially decorated with symbols of the nascent religion (the fish, the cross and the dove). The names of Aelianus and Felicitas, engraved on the paten, could be those of the donors. Recent studies have identified two twin pieces (a plate and a spoon) kept at the Bode Museum in Berlin and other pieces perhaps part of the Tifernate liturgical equipment always kept in Germany.
According to tradition it was donated in 1142 by Pope Celestine II (1143-1144), originally from Città di Castello, the Guelfucci family, Canon of the Cathedral since 1114, to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Florido and Amanzio. Intended for the high altar, it is made of embossed, chiselled and partly gilded silver. It is decorated in the center by the figure of Christ Blessing, seated on a throne and surrounded by the symbols of the Evangelists. On the sides, divided into compartments, are represented the episodes of the Annunciation, Visitation and Nativity; Adoration of the Magi and Presentation of Jesus in the Temple; Flight into Egypt and Treason in the Garden of Getzemani; Crucifixion. Next to this last scene are three figures, traditionally identified in the saints tifernati Donnino, Florido and Amanzio. The thematic choice of the artifact is closely linked to the function that the sacred ornament had in the Middle Ages and to the role that the altar played inside the church. Probably the Paliotto is the work of several artists, of Byzantine tradition but already aware of the Romanesque culture, evident, for example, in the plasticism of the figures that emerge strongly from the bottom of the foil. It was Pietro Toesca, one of the leading experts in Medieval Art, who gave a more precise stylistic definition, identifying a language more akin to Lombard sculpture.
In embossed, chiselled, bulinated and partially gilded silver, it consists of an octagonal stick adorned with overlapping rows of mullioned windows. At the end of these comes out a small shrine, whose sides overlook a series of saints made of enamel and translucent worked. Above it is a second order of mullioned windows, from which starts the volute of the hedgehog, with quadrangular section, with profiles softened by refined figures of saints, flowers, fantastic animals and birds. The hedgehog is supported, at the bottom, by an angel with outstretched wings on a shelf. Inside the volute, a horizontal pedestal supports the statues of the Virgin with the Child and Bishop Florido kneeling. The work is attributed to Goro di Gregorio, Sienese goldsmith and sculptor, who in the most documented marble production transposed the same refinement of the goldsmith’s works. In a deed of Ser Angelo di Domenico we learn that the Pastoral belonged to Bishop Sirobaldi from Perugia (1424-1441) and that in 1436 the latter had him delivered in jealous custody to Bartolomeo Fucci.
The occupation of Città di Castello by the German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa is testified by two acts issued on November 6, 1163. With them he placed under his protection the schismatic bishop Corbello and the canons of the Cathedral, which were reinstated in possession of property alienated by his predecessors. The act reproduced here was issued in favour of those who then inhabited the Rectory, a building adjacent to the Cathedral, and specifies the assets that this possessed in Castellana Civitate.
Attributed to the school of one of the most important architects of the fifteenth century, the sculpture duly restored, has recovered its original polychrome. It is equipped with mobile arms that allowed it to be seen both as Christ Crucified and as Deposed. This type of Crucifixes were in fact used in the Sacred Representations that took place during Holy Week. With highly realistic characters, especially in the marked expressionism of the face, these simulacra often flanked real actors.
Even in the simplicity of the representation, the work contains a dense theological meaning. At the center of the scene is in fact the figure of the Child, standing on the knees of Mary, depicted as mother and mediator in the act of holding his blessing hand. The Child is in turn referred to as the Messiah by Saint John the Baptist, who supports the writing Ecce Agnus Dei, or the foretold according to those Sacred Scriptures whose book holds the chest. There is no reliable documentation regarding the commission of this work, but recent studies are inclined to indicate the table painted by the artist in Rome in conjunction with the frescoes of the Borgia Apartment in the Vatican (1492-1945). The small tempera is distinguished by its ornamental minutiae and narrative vivacity and reflects the artist’s instinct and natural propensity to highlight detail. A revaluation of Pinturicchio also supported by Cesare Brandi, compared to the Vasari critics, who saw him as a decorator by the meter, without art and without science.
In 1528 the Company of Corpus Christi commissioned the artist a panel representing the Risen Christ in Glory with the Virgin and Saints Anna, Mary Magdalene and Mary Egyptian and, below, “more and different figures that […] represent el populo”. The demands of the contract were indeed honoured as to the sacred figures to be represented in the upper part of the painting. The lack of a specific indication of how the people should be represented offered instead the painter the freedom to choose the figures in a completely original way. In the composition were therefore inserted characters completely unusual in a sacred representation: a black man, a woman holding the hand of a Herculean child, a soldier, a mustached gypsy, a seller of chickens, another female figure with a child in her arms but with her back to the beholder and greater than the figure of Christ. Rosso Fiorentino, a pupil of Andrea del Sarto and influenced by Pontormo and Michelangelo, created this table in a brilliant and bizarre way, so much so that it is one of his most significant works among the last that he painted before going to France at the Court of Francis I of Valois (1494-1547). The originality of the choice, in perfect correspondence with the Gospel message, fully reflects the autonomy of the artist, one of the most famous exponents of that Mannerism destined to innovate deeply and in a revolutionary way, the codified pictorial schemes of the Renaissance.
It was San Florido, Bishop and protector of the city, who in the sixth century animated the reconstruction of the city destroyed by the Goths and promoted the construction of a real Cathedral over the ruins of the old temple of Happiness, built, according to tradition, by the writer Pliny the Younger. The building, which Florido did not see completed, is documented from 609 to 1032. In this year Bishop Peter consecrated a new Cathedral dedicated to the Patrons Florido and Amanzio, whose bodies, transported along with those of other martyrs from Pieve dei Saddi, in the present City of Pietralunga, were enclosed in an urn placed in the crypt below. Over the centuries, the desire to have a cathedral church worthy of the city and in nothing inferior to other religious buildings in the region led the tifernati to continuous works of improvement.
In its current form, the sacred building is the result of a radical renovation carried out following the earthquake of 1458 and economically supported by the city community. The Gothic portal on the north side towards the square and the cloister on the south side remain of the fourteenth-century construction phases. The baroque facade, which remained unfinished, is preceded by a staircase erected in the nineteenth century to replace the previous one. Even after the earthquake of 1789 the Cathedral was rebuilt and embellished.
Of the Romanesque building also remains the cylindrical bell tower, influenced by Byzantine Ravenna. Some research conducted by the scholar Mario Salmi found constructive methods that in “Romanesque time” come from the Arezzo area and can be identified in a movement headed by the architect Maginardo. The external materials indicate the different construction phases: the lower part, of the 11th-12th century, is made of small stone ashlars, while the upper one, of the 13th century, is made of sandstone and characterized by a double order of openings.
The structure, 43.50 meters high with an average diameter of 7 meters, ends with a cone crowning that houses the bell cell with three bells. Isolated from the Cathedral building, the Bell Tower has over time become one of the architectural symbols of Città di Castello and can be visited regularly since 2009 after extensive renovation and consolidation seismic.
Celestino Vaiani, “The tifernate Cathedral and its museum” – Guida Storico-artistica, Cerboni Editore, 1991
Celestino Vaiani, “The Tifernate Cathedral and its museum” – Travel Guide, Cerboni Editore, 1991
“Museo del Duomo di Città di Castello” – Guide, Italian edition, Petruzzi Editore, 2000
“Museo del Duomo di Città di Castello” – Guide, English edition, Petruzzi Editore, 2000
“Museo del Duomo di Città di Castello” – Short guide, Italian edition, Petruzzi Editore, 2000
“Museo del Duomo di Città di Castello” – Short guide, English edition, Petruzzi Editore, 2000
Città di Castello, “La Porta dell’Umbria”, Luoghinteriori Editore, 2014