The two treasures: beauty and spirituality between Florence and Pistoia
The treasures of the monuments of the cathedrals of Florence and Pistoia can be visited for the first time thanks to a joint online ticket
For the first time, thanks to an agreement signed between the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and the Cathedral Church of San Zeno with the visit itinerary "The treasure of San Jacopo", from 1 August to 31 December 2023, it will be possible to visit the "treasures" of the two monumental complexes of Florence and Pistoia thanks to a joint ticket. An itinerary that unites the two Tuscan cities, close by geographical position, history, culture and Christian devotion.
The symbol of this affinity and the fulcrum of the project are two capital works of medieval sacred goldsmithing: the silver altar of San Giovanni in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence and the silver altar of San Jacopo in the Cathedral of San Zeno in Pistoia. To these are added the works of great artists and architects who worked in the two cities, from the Middle Ages to the high Renaissance, including Filippo Brunelleschi, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Giorgio Vasari, Verrocchio, the Della Robbias and the Buglioni, Michelozzo, Coppo di Marcovaldo and others Still.
In the "treasure" room of the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence, one of the masterpieces of Tuscan goldsmithing between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries is preserved, the silver altar of San Giovanni, commissioned by the Arte di Calimala as a reredos for the altar of the Baptistery of Florence: it will take over a hundred years of work, 200 kilos of silver and 1050 enamelled plaquettes to complete it. Its archetype is found in the imposing and refined silver altar of San Jacopo in the Cathedral of San Zeno in Pistoia, built in honor of the patron saint of the city to contain one of his precious relics. Two masterpieces of medieval sacred art: that of San Jacopo, older, will be "inspirational" to his Florentine successor. The two altars are similar in material and technique (embossed silver with gilding, parts in the round and enamels), in invention (stories in bas-relief within boxes that are arranged around niches with the figures in the round of the "proprietary" saints) and for both being the result of a centuries-old work (1287-1456 the extremes of the Pistoia altar; 1366-1483 of the Florentine one), carried out by the hands of the greatest Tuscan goldsmiths and artists of the time.
And it is always the silver altar of San Jacopo that connects the two cathedrals in the name of Filippo Brunelleschi. At the beginning of the 1400s, Brunelleschi, who began his career as a goldsmith and sculptor, took part in the competition for the construction of the North Door of the Florence Baptistery and in the same period he created the tile with the prophets Isaiah for the silver altar of Pistoia and Jeremiah on the left side of the reredos: figures who, despite their small size, for their plastic freedom and natural and psychological truth and for the spiritual intensity of their gestures and expressions, constitute one of the most precious testimonies of the beginning of the Renaissance. We find Brunelleschi in Florence grappling with one of the most important undertakings of all time, the construction of the Dome of the Cathedral of Florence, which he will carry out starting from 1420. The relationship between Brunelleschi's Dome and that of the Basilica of Humility in Pistoia is evident - begun by Giuliano da Sangallo, continued by Ventura Vitoni and finished by Giorgio Vasari - in a journey that embraced the work of the most excellent architects of the time from 1420 to 1568. But the two silver altars have another artist in common: Leonardo di Ser Giovanni who, in 1361-1364, worked on the left side of the Jacobean altar on the stories of the Old and New Testaments, and subsequently, until 1371, on the opposite side to those of the life of San Jacopo and then, in 1366, together with Betto di Geri, he will be commissioned to execute some scenes from the life of the Baptist on the front side of the silver altar of the Florentine Baptistery.
But not only Brunelleschi and Vasari, the dialogue between the two Cathedrals continues thanks to the works of other great artists and architects of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance including Coppo di Marcovaldo with the Cross painted in the Cathedral of Pistoia and the mosaics of the Baptistery of Florence; Lorenzo Ghiberti who, while working on the monumental North Gate of the Baptistery of Florence (1403 - 1424), created with his workshop, in 1407, the Reliquary of San Jacopo in the Cathedral of Pistoia. And then Verrocchio to whom we owe the famous panel with the Beheading of the Baptist for the silver altar of San Giovanni (on which it is assumed that a young Leonardo, trained at Verrocchio's workshop, also worked) and the Golden Ball (1468 – 1471) on Brunelleschi's Dome, while in Pistoia, starting from 1476, he created the cenotaph of Cardinal Niccolò Forteguerri on the wall of the left aisle of the Cathedral of San Zeno. And then the glazed terracottas of the Della Robbia and the Buglioni: in the loggia of the Ospedale del Ceppo (Buglioni) and in the portico of the cathedral (Andrea della Robbia) in Pistoia; in Santa Maria del Fiore (Luca della Robbia) and in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo (Andrea della Robbia and Benedetto Buglioni). Michelozzo who worked on the body of the building of the Ospedale del Ceppo in Pistoia and on the Lantern of the Cathedral of Florence, and above all, on the San Giovanni in the Silver Altar, which takes up the San Jacopo of the homonymous altar in Pistoia.
The joint ticket "The two treasures", which can only be purchased online (full price 18 euros, reduced 10) allows you to visit the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence - where the silver altar of San Giovanni is kept, the North Gate of the Lorenzo Baptistery and many other early Renaissance masterpieces - of the Baptistery and the Crypt of Santa Reparata in the Cathedral. In Pistoia, the Cathedral of San Zeno with the tour called "The treasure of San Jacopo" which includes an audio-guided tour of the main works of art and the silver altar of San Jacopo as well as the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Corte and the bell tower.