COURTYARD OF THE CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DEL PARADISO
To the right of the church of Santa Maria del Paradiso is the entrance to the courtyard. It was constructed in the 13th century with a steep slope towards the east side and was completed with the erection of the first floor in 1450. It remains mostly intact, although there are parts which have been redone and added on since the original construction. The courtyard resembles the external structure of the Papal Palace; however, the solidity of the structure of Santa Maria del Paradiso is more pronounced than that of the Palace. The columns that support the arches at Santa Maria in Paradiso are slightly bigger than those at the Palace. Ultimately, the architecture at Santa Maria del Paradiso borrows the simple and naked style of Cistercian architecture. The full arches intersect each other to form groin vaults made of small paired columns with trilobe cusps and many capitals typical of Cistercian architecture. An addition, which was added probably during the 16th or 17th century, has put strain on certain parts of the structure, but it has not distorted its form. Together with the southern part of the convent, the courtyard withstood considerable damage from bombing during the Second World War and was reconstructed between 1959 and 1963 by the Lazio Department of Monuments.
The frescos, which are very damaged, are from the 16th century and were at the time of their painting attributed to the viterbese artist Angelo Pucciati (1610 c. – June 1643), a student of Guercino, who painted the Miracoli e scene tratte dalla vita di Sant’Antonio da Padova (Miracles and Scenes from the Life of Saint Anthony of Padua) and the images of various Santi dei tre Ordini Francescani (Saints of the Three Franciscan Orders). The restoration undertaken by the Department of Monuments in 1964 has tried to emphasize the parts of the frescos that still remain. The first two arches on the left wall of the courtyard do not have frescos. The third, however, is distinguished by a double scene: on the left Sant’Antonio che tiene la sua prima predica nella cattedrale di Rimini (Saint Anthony Giving His First Sermon in the Rimini Cathedral), and on the right il Santo genuflesso che riceve una pergamena (The Kneeling Saint Receiving a Scroll). These images symbolize obedience and dedication to preaching and apostleship. The fourth arch only has a small fragment of fresco at the bottom, but the image is not distinguishable. The fragment at the top of the fifth arch shows il Santo in atto di predicare dal pulpito (The Saint in the Act of Preaching). On the sixth arch is the Miracolo della mula che si prostra dinnanzi all’Eucarestia (the Miracle of the mule who Bowed Down Before the Eucharist), however the only part of this scene that is visible is the procession that accompanied the monstrance. On the first arch of the northern side, there is a painting of L’apparizione di Gesù Bambino al Santo di Padova (The Appearance of the Baby Jesus to the Saint of Padua). In the second arch there is the scene of Avaro defunto (Dead Miser), in which the miser’s heart is placed in a chest. On the third arch is the Bilocazione del Santo ( Ubiquity of the Saint) that shows Saint Anthony in two places at once: preaching at Padua and at the same time defending his unjustly accused and condemned father in Lisbon. On the fourth arch, one can see the Santo con un compagno di viaggio vestito da pellegrino (The Saint with a Companion in the Clothes of a Pilgrim) and on the right half of this same arch is an Angel Bringing a Message. In the fifth arch is the Miracolo della ricongiunzione del piede ad un giovane che se lo era reciso con un’ascia (Miracle of the Reattachment of the Foot to a Young Man Who Was Cut with an Axe). The sixth arch does not have any image on it. On the same wall and in the same order at the base of the arches are painted Santa Elisabetta d’Ungheria (Saint Elizabeth of Hungary) with a crown on her head and roses in her lap, San Ludovico IX re di Francia (Saint Louis IX, King of France), Sant’Elzeario (Saint Elzear), and Sant’Ivo (Saint Ivan). These last three all belonging to the Third Order. These are followed by depictions of two other saints who cannot be identified. The frescos on the arches on the other two walls were completely destroyed. However, five images at the base of the eastern wall are well conserved and one on the southern wall remains, but in bad shape. Its arches were destroyed in bombings during World Ward II. The saints represented in those that do still exist are Saint John of Capistrano; Saint James of the Marches; Saint Peter of Alcantara; Saint Diego of Alcalà, protector of the sick; the identity of the fifth saint is unsure, but is thought to be Saint Roch, the patron of those infected with the plague. The last saint on the other wall does not have any distinguishing signs. In the middle of the courtyard there is a well topped with a statue of the Virgin Marie.
COURTYARD OF THE CHURCH OF S. MARIA DEL PARADISO.
Translation by Clare Kuntz, Goucher College, enrolled in the USAC Viterbo program.
P.G. Zucconi; S. Maria del Paradiso in Viterbo, Roma 1971.
L.P. Monelli; Viterbo, Enciclopedia dell’Arte Medievale, XI, Milano 2000, pp. 705-717.
L.P. Monelli; Chiesa e convento di Santa Maria del Paradiso, in Il centro storico di Viterbo, a cura di M.G. Gimma, Betagamma Editrice, Viterbo 2001, pp. 336-237.
M. Galeotti; L’illustrissima Città di Viterbo, Edizioni Studio Pubblicitario Viterbese, Viterbo 2002, pp. 218-225.