It was mid-afternoon, the sun was playing among the clouds, and I had some time to kill before meeting a friend…..
The origin of the church of St. Anthony Abate is tied to the arrival of the Hospitaller monks of St. Anthony to Parma in the mid-14th century. These monks are better known as “Tau monks“, for the black outfit on which the letter “T” is sewn in turquoise cloth on the left.
This ancient church was oriented with the facade towards the West facing St. Seven’s Square and the apse was turned to the East.
During the 1400s, St. Anthony’s Church became very “fashionable” and its interior became progressively embellished and enriched with works of art under the protection of the most prestigious families, such as the Rossi family.
In addition to the Rossi family and the Arcimboldi family in the first years of the 1500s, also the Bergonzi family became active and favoured the artistic activity of Correggio, who was in fact commissioned in 1523 to paint a table with the Virgin, which became subsequently one of his most famous masterpieces and is better known as the Virgin of St. Jerome (now in the Parma National Gallery).
The presence of the painting by Correggio would make St. Anthony’s one of the mandatory visiting sites for artists and art lovers from the Age of Enlightenment–from Vasari to Annibale Carracci, from Scaramuzza to Algarotti.
The Holy See suppressed the monks (1493) and the passage of the church-hospice complex to a lay proctor, and from there it began its long slow demise.
At the end of the 17th century the old temple was in a condition of great disrepair:
Ottavio and Giambattista Bettoli, on behalf of Pope Clement XIII Rezzonico, started construction work in 1759.
The long lapse of time between the projection and the decoration makes St. Anthony’s an extraordinary case of cohabitation between the last sophisticated expressions of late Italian Baroque and the first refined fruits of revival in the classic sense of the artistic culture in Parma.
St. Anthony’s casket was embellished by beautiful sculptures by Gaetano Callani, Peroni’s best student, in the sequence where one clearly sees the passage from the grace of the Rococco style to the ancient elegance of surviving Neoclassicism.