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PALAZZO VITELLI, S. FRANCESCO. 289
Turning down the neighbouring Corso, the Via S. Egidio leads, close to the gate, to the Palazzo di Paolo Vitelli, a magnificent pile of 1540.1 It is now the property of the Marchese Rondinelli of Florence.
The staircase is handsome, with a frescoed ceiling which, with the ceilings of all the chambers, was the work of the prolific artist, Cristofero Gherardi, commonly known as II Doceno. It leads to a great hall decorated by Prospero Fontana, in the style of the Zuccari, with frescoes relating to the glories of the house of Vitelli, viz.:
The Death of Giovanni Vitelli at the Siege of Osimo.
Charles VIII. gives an Order to Camillo Vitelli.
The succeeding halls are all decorated with frescoes. Behind the palace are gardens, now little better than a ploughed field, save for a boschetto of ilexes. At the end is the picturesque Palazzino, with an open loggia, having a ceiling by Cristofero Gherardi, splendidly decorated with mythological subjects enclosed in a network of flowers, birds, and fishes. The whole is wonderfully preserved. On the walls are fresco portraits of members of the Vitelli family.
Returning to the Corso, and following the opposite Via Cavour, we reach (right) the Church of S. Francesco, which contains :—
Right. 1st Altar. N. Circinani. The Stoning of S. Stephen. 2nd Altar. Pictures of SS. John and Andrew, enclosing a reliquary of the 15th century, for relics of S. Andrew.
yd Altar. N. Circinani. The Annunciation.
1 There are three other Vitelli palaces in the town, but not worth seeing.
4th Altar. Raffaellino da Colle. The Assumption.
Left. 1st Chapel—Of the Vitelli, where they are buried.
G. Vasari. The Coronation of the Virgin, with saints below. The stalls, of intarsia work, represent the life of S. Francis.
2nd Chapel. Agostino and Andrea della Robbia. S. Francis receiving the Stigmata.
Several other churches may be briefly noticed.
Luca Signorelli. The Coronation of S. Cecilia.
SS. Trinita contains :—
Sacristy. Two standards representing the Crucifixion and the Creation of Eve, attributed to Raffaelle.
S. Giovanni Decollate contains :—
Sacristy. A standard representing the story of S. John, by Luca Signorelli.
The Palazzo Mancini has a collection which is shown. The best works are :—
2. Luca della Robbia. The Ascension—a fragment. 7, 8, 9. 10. Luca Signorelli. Saints.
19. Vasari. Cosimo de' Medici.
20. Luca Signorelli, 1515- Virgin and Child with angels and saints.
In the Palazzo Municipale is a Virgin and Child with ten saints, by Piero della Francesea.
It is a drive of 12 miles from Citta di Castello to Borgo San Sepolcro, through a fertile plain. The road passes through the village of San Giustino, and skirts a beautiful garden belonging to the villa of the Marchese Buffalini of Florence. The frescoes of Cristofero Gherardi here, so much praised by Vasari, have been ruined by an earthquake. After passing, at a little distance on the right, the village of Cospaglia, once a republic like San Marino, we reach a low pillar marking what was once the boundary between Tuscany and the Papal States, one of the two neighbouring cottages under the same roof belonging to either kingdom. Here we come in sight of the towers of Borgo San Sepokro. The town has an ancient look, and its houses retain several of the tall towers which were the pride of mediaeval nobles, and which once gave the city the appearance which is still retained by San Gimignano, as may be seen by an old picture in one of the churches. Many of the most stately of the towers perished in the earthquake of 1789. Borgo belonged to the Holy See till 1440, when it was made over to the Florentines by Eugenius IV. Though an unimportant town in itself, it has acquired a lustre unequalled by many great cities, as the birthplace and home of many of the greatest masters of Italian art—Santi di Tito (15381603), the best painter of his own period; Raffaellino da Colle (c. 1540), born at Colle, a few miles from Borgo, an eminent follower of Raffaelle and Giulio Romano; Cristofero Gherardi (1500-1556), surnamed Doceno, a pupil of Raffaellino; but, above all, Piero della Francesca (13981484), of whom Luca Pacioli, writing in 1494, speaks as 'the monarch of painting in our times.'
'From Umbria he had drawn the secret of homely combinations and direct surprises; from Florence draughtsmanship, the power of dramatic distribution and combination, science and the passion of science, the resolve that art should leave no province of nature unattempted. From his own instincts he took the twofold choice that gives his work its charm and singularity—a love of colour in its fairest gradations and most fanciful harmonies, and, with that, a delight in the confident gestures of the strong, the innocent haughtiness of physical health, the courageous mien of those who stand on both feet, and hold their heads high, looking out with eyes of a frank indifferent sweetness upon a world of which they feel the masters.'—S. C.
In the centre of the town is a piazza containing the tall Torre dell' Orologio. Opening from this is the Via del Duomo, on the right of which is the Cathedral, founded 1012, but retaining little of antiquity. It contains :—
Right Aisle (over side-door). The beautiful tomb of Bishop Galeotto Graziani.
Next Altar. Santi di Tito. The Incredulity of S. Thomas.
Choir. Left. Perugino. The Ascension—a replica of the great picture once in S. Pietro at Perugia, now at Rouen. Right. Raffaellino da Colle. The Resurrection.
Sacristy. Luca della Robbia. Figures of SS. Benedetto and Romualdo. Gerino da Pistoja. Fragments of frescoes of saints.
14th century. SS. Peter and Paul, with the story of S. John Baptist in the predella.
Left Aisle. School of Luca della Robbia. Ciborium.
yd Altar. Antonio Cavalucci. Madonna del Rosario.
2nd Altar. Durante Albcrti. Nativity.
1st Altar. Giovanni Alberti. Crucifixion.
Opposite the cathedral is a small building containing the Municipio, and the Monte Pio. Here is :—
* Piero della Francesca. A most grand fresco of the Resurrection. It is early morning in a wintry landscape, a valley in a wild Umbrian country, with great trees breaking the sky. In the centre is the tomb, from which the Saviour is rising grandly and triumphantly, with one foot on the ledge, a banner with the red cross in his right hand, his winding-sheet drawn round over the left shoulder, and his eyes looking forward with rapt intensity, the whole figure thrown out by the blackness of the hills behind, upon which the light has not yet risen. Below lie, or rather sit, the four guards in armour, greatly foreshortened, in the most intense sleep. The fresco is admirably seen, and the room is generally open: it is alone worth a visit to Borgo San Sepolcro.
Close by, behind the fountain, is the Church of S. Francesco, which contains :—
Left. 1st Altar. Domenico Passignano. Christ with the Doctors. A very striking picture, almost wholly in shadow, the light just catching some bald heads in the foreground: the figure and expression of the boy-Saviour most beautiful.
Right, yd Altar. Giovanni de' Vecchi. S. Francis receiving the Stigmata.
Just beyond, on the right, is the Chapel of the Misericordia, which contains :—
Left. Raffaellino da Colle. The Resurrection. What a contrast in its disturbance and confusion to the solemnity of the Piero della Francesca!
High Altar. A curious crucifix, said to have been miraculously discovered by oxen refusing to walk over the place where it was buried.
Beneath this chapel is the copy of the Holy Sepulchre, which gave the town (called Nocera before) its present name. It was built in 1300 in wood, in 1480 in stone. The bronze gates by Alberti have wonderful reliefs of the Temptation of Adam, and the expulsion from Paradise.
In the neighbouring Via della Misericordia (left) is the Hospital, containing, in its chapel :—
* Piero della Francisca. The Virgin shielding the inhabitants of Borgo with her robe, a memorial of the plague of 1348. All around the frame are tiny figures of saints, and four larger figures beneath. Above is the Crucifixion. In the gradino are :—The Agony in the Garden, the Flagellation, the Women at the Sepulchre, and the Appearance to the Magdalen.
On the left, at the angle of the town-wall, is the Fortezza, with long machicolations. Turning left, inside the neighbouring gate, we reach the Church of S. Antonio, which has a curious Gothic portal, with a relief of souls presented to the Saviour by their patron saints; below, in quatrefoils, is the Annunciation. Within is :—
* High Altar, Luca Signorelli. An altar piece, originally a standard, painted on both sides and quite magnificent in colour. On one side are SS. Eligio and Antonio Abbate; on the other the Crucifixion—the Virgin has fainted, and is lying at the foot of the cross.
Turning right from hence, at the end of the Via del Rio, is the Church of the Minori Osservanti, which contains :— Choir. Raffaellino da Colle. Coronation of the Virgin.
Hence we may proceed in a direct line to the Church of the Semi, which contains :—,
Right, yd Altar. Giovanni de' Vccchi. The Presentation in the Temple.
Altar. N. Circinani. Virgin and Child, with SS. Luke and Francis.
Choir. 15th century. The Assumption.
Left. 4th Altar. Pom. Passignano? The Annunciation.
A little further is the Church of S. Chiara, containing :—
* High. Altar. Piero della Francesca. The Assumption. The Virgin, with an expression of the most intense humility and devotion