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Pieve Museum and Gemona Cathedral Treasure, in the fourteenth-century rectory, preserves paintings, sculptures, and sacred vestments

Opened in the early 1970s to house goldwork, illustrated manuscripts and liturgical vestments, the Museum of the Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta was due to be moved into the newly restored fourteenth-century “Old rectory” in the Spring of 1976, along with the church’s historical archives.

Parchment containing a testament (1241) – photo by Decio Tomat

The plans were put on hold to permit the architectural complex to be made safe again following the tragic events of that year, and, above all, to expand the planned museum to permit inclusion of artworks that survived the earthquake from the Cathedral and the town’s other churches. The museum opened in the autumn of 2006.

Adaptation of the spaces for use as a museum and the exhibition installation were planned by architect Gian Paolo Della Marina.

SCULPTORS’ AND PAINTERS’ WORKS IN THE PIEVE MUSEUM

The works of sculpture and carving preserved in the Museum include decorated architectural elements, statues and items of furniture: many of them are works by anonymous local and regional sculptors and carvers, while we know the names and dates of others: the late thirteenth-century master Johannes; the fourteenth-century Giovanni Griglio; and the seventeenth-century Girolamo Paliario, Sebastiano da Rio and Girolamo Comuzzo.

The paintings, dating from the late Middle Ages to the twentieth century, include detached fragments of wall paintings, canvases and altarpieces, frescoes and devotional paintings. They are the work of artists including the sixteenth-century Pordenone and Sebastiano Secante the Elder; the seventeenth-century Eugenio Pini; eighteenth-century artist Giovanni Battista Tiani; and twentieth-century artists Giuseppe Barazzutti and Fred Pittino.

“Pietà” by Giuseppe Barazzutti – photo by Mauro Vale

PRECIOUS VESTMENTS AND UPHOLSTERY, INCLUDING TWO FRONTALS

The collection of liturgical vestments includes chasubles and dalmatics, copes and humeral veils, bishops’ mitres and vestments and embroidered fabrics. They were produced between the early 18th century and the twenty-first century, though the collection also includes a number of older items, such as a small skilfully embroidered frontal dating back to the sixteenth century. The most commonly used material is silk, often decorated with gold and silver thread.

Two splendid frontals were made by sisters Cassandra and Antonia Vintani upon reaching the age of fifteen, in 1854 and 1856.

Altar frontal illustrated with the scene of a pelican feeding its young with its own blood, by Cassandra Vintani (1854)

Il Tesoro del Duomo di Gemona: reliquiari, l’ostensorio di Lionello e il prezioso Tabernaculum Gemona Cathedral Treasury: reliquaries, the Lionello monstrance, and the precious Tabernaculum Magnum

The Treasure of the Pieve in Gemona was formed when the community began to donate precious objects and furnishings, feeling it was their civic duty to support their churches. The only items dating back to the fourteenth century are  two reliquaries, both shaped like goblets, with a cup of rock crystal which was reworked at a later time.

THE PRECIOUS MONSTRANCE OF NICOLÒ LIONELLO

The monstrance by Udine goldsmith and architect  Nicolò Lionello, who designed the Town Hall in Udine, dates back to the fifteenth century. The Treasure also includes a cope button and a figure of a processional cross by Lionello.

Two views of the Lionello Monstrance (1434-35) – photos by Fabio Valerio

The extraordinary vertical architecture of the monstrance consists of a foot, a stem with a tabernacle node and cup base, a case, and a complicated cover in a vaguely conical shape. Embossed relief, lacquer and filigree, depictions of Justice, Charity and Fortitude, little cells containing relics of saints and martyrs, shrines and watchtowers under the surveillance of minuscule sentinels, scenes illustrating episodes in the life of the Virgin, pinnacles topped with miniature statues of saints in the round, support, enclose and crown a case for displaying the consecrated host in a fantastic construction culminating in a rosebud. 

Nicolò Lionello delivered the completed work in 1435 and was paid in instalments, the last of which was paid to his heirs in 1488, as Nicolò had passed away in 1462.

GOLDWORK: CHALICES, CIBORIA AND MONSTRANCES PRESERVED IN THE CATHEDRAL MUSEUM IN GEMONA

In the centuries that followed, the Treasure was enriched with  chalices, patens, ciboria, monstrances, reliquaries and other items crafted by the goldsmiths of Friuli and Veneto, including  two bronzes by  Gerolamo Campagna dating back to the early seventeenth century (Saint Valentine and Saint Nicholas).

Twentieth-century items include a chalice by Milanese goldsmith Giuseppe Galesio, several items by Friulian goldsmith Agelindo Modesto and a pectoral cross and crosier donated by the Archbishop Emeritus of Udine, Monsignor Pietro Brollo, both bearing a model of the cross in Longobard style appearing on the Cathedral façade.

Two Popes donated a chalice to the Cathedral in the twentieth century. The first of these is a chalice of Irish manufacture donated by Pope Pius X in 1909. The other  chalice, made by a Roman goldsmith, was donated by Pope John Paul II, who was received in Gemona on 3 May 1992, during his pastoral visit to Friuli and the region.

ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPTS FOR THE SINGING OF THE CHOIR DURING RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES

One hall in the Museum displays a set of illuminated manuscripts purchased around the middle of the fourteenth century for singing during worship in the Cathedral. The seven parchment volumes – written and illuminated in the Monastery of the Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua – were sold by the Franciscan friars because they had replaced them with a new series of choir books.

Miniature of the Antifonario I scriptorium in the Monastery of Saint Anthony of Padua – second half of the thirteenth century – photo by Fabio Valerio

The manuscripts are important not only in musical and liturgical terms, but also for their artistic value: they contain numerous miniatures attributable to four or five of the best miniaturists in Padua, created between the 1260s and the 1280s. One of the volumes may have been produced a little later, perhaps in the early fourteenth century.

In addition to the manuscripts purchased in Padua, the Museum contains a fourteenth-century Gradual III – with later additions – said to have been donated to the Cathedral by Patriarch Bertrand of Saint-Geniés.

The world’s oldest baptismal registry, preserved in Gemona’s historical archives.

The hall also displays the Baptismal Registry of the Pieve in Gemona, the world’s oldest known baptismal registry,  containing records of children baptised in Gemona between 1379 and 1403 and opening a series of registers of the population of Gemona, demonstrating the great civic and religious sensibility of the local communities.

First page of the world’s oldest known baptismal registry, recording the baptism of Tomasina, daughter of Ludovico di Altaneto, on 3 March 1379, opening the registers of the Pieve in Gemona – photo by Fabio Valerio

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Sundays and holidays: 10.30-12.30 / 15.00-19.00
weekdays: su richiesta

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FREE ENTRY

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Partially accessible to the differently able | Parking 50 metres away, not exclusively for the museum | Outdoor access ramp | Accessible toilets | Elevator | 4 of the rooms are not accessible for persons with motorial disabilities | The entire collection is accessible for the hearing-impaired and for persons with mental disabilities | Not accessible for the visually impaired

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VIRTUAL MUSEUM TOURS

Visitors with mobility issues may take a virtual tour of those exhibition spaces which are not served by elevators.

In the hall is a computer workstation for viewing the miniatures in the choir books: visitors may use a touchscreen to virtually turn the pages and consult technical information on the miniatures and clarification of the texts that accompany them.

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