The foundation of the Dominican complext of Santa Maria in Gradi is remembered for the first time in a document in 1228 in which a donation to the monks living there for the constructione ecclesiae (construction of the church) is cited. In 1224 a bull of the Pope Innocenzo IV ratified the construction of the whole complex for wishes of the Cardinal Raniero Capocci. Since 2000 tn the complex of Santa Maria in Gradi is located the University of Tuscia in Viterbo, whit he Rector’s Office and the Administrative Offices, and Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures Faculty too.
SANTA MARIA IN GRADI COMPLEX
HISTORY AND DESCRIPTION
The foundation of the Dominican convent of S. Maria in Gradi is remembered for the first time in a document in 1228 in which a donation to the monks living there for the constructione ecclesiae (construction of the church) is cited. In 1224 a bull of the Pope Innocenzo IV ratified the construction of the whole complex for wishes of the Cardinal Raniero Capocci. The following year the construction of the city walls started, protected with carbonare and justified above all by the war with Federico II. The war events of this period and the concern showed by the Viterbo citizenship for the safety of the monks became the base of the widening defense of the town. In fact in 1270 a new gate for the town was built: Porta di San Biele which became part of the complex together with S. Fortunato Church which was given by the monks as a shelter for the population in case of attack by Federico II. After the consecration happened in 1243 of the cemetery adjoining with the convent and opened to all the citizenship for papal privilege, since 1246 the monks benefited of a series of legacies and indulgences, besides the already remembered protection of the City Hall, as quoted in the statutes of 1251. In the 13th century this complex expanded with the construction of the Ospedale Domus Dei and of the marble cloister, together with the consecration of the church in 1258 by the wishes of Pope Alessandro IV. The old city walls that contained the convent are today defined by the streets Via Sabatino, via Valerio Tedeschi, via San Biele and via della Pila. In front of the S. Sisto gate there was the main entrance to Santa Maria in Gradi, called in gradibus because of the steps to reach the complex. Three towers, oriented towards Viterbo, the Cimini mountains and the current via Lorenzo from Viterbo, were the borders of the defensive system together with the whole complex. The only original part of the complex is the main cloister, revised in the course of centuries, dated 1256 and finished during the papacy of Alessandro IV. In addition to decorative elements in all similar to those already present in the cloister of S. Martino al Cimino, the “a crochet” capitals are particularly refined and decorated with different patterns. On the eastern side, there is the entrance door to the chapter house, which double lancet windows have a large stylistic resemblance with the architectural solutions utilized for the Palazzo Papale and a series of additions following the first construction. The well in the inner cloister, composed of the basin with slab tombs reused on which a couple of columns overtopped with a trabeation erect, was built in 1557. The second cloister, adjoined to the complex, dates back to the second half of the 17th Century. At the center there is a fountain characterized by columns of clearly from the Renaissance, which form an enclosure and on which capitals the coat of arms of the Chigi family is sculpted. The church, which at the beginning it was organized in three naves, was the object of a series of restorations between 1737 and 1758 under the guide of the architect Nicola Salvi. In this occasion only on nave was realized covered of vaults and edged of a transept surmounted by an octagonal dome and decorated of elegant plaster. The arcades, opposite to the church, was built in the second half of the 15th Century, in replacement of the structure completed in 1341.Unfortunately, the whole complex of S. Maria in Gradi, considered one of the masterpieces of Salvi, together with the fountain of Trevi, was seriously damaged after being transformed into a prison. This happened because of the confiscation of the properties of the convent operated after the abolition of the religious corporations happened in 1873. The complex was used as a prison until 1993. In 1996 the Ministry donated the complex to the University of Tuscia, which began a strong restoration of all the valuable parts including the underground parts. The intense restoration campaign sponsored by the University of Tuscia in Viterbo, allowed to host the Rector’s Office and the Administrative Offices of the University of Tuscia in Viterbo, located in the complex of S.Maria in Gradi; and since 2000 the Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures Faculty too.
Traduzione di Danielle Maddock, University of Nevada, Alicia Bertram, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque Veronika Melnick Seattle University. Programma USAC presso Università degli Studi della Tuscia.
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