A sunny saturday morning, I had errands to do in the city center, and I walked in front on the Church of Santa Lucia, just the moment they were opening the gate…..could I miss the chance to go inside? But I was in a hurry because hubby was waiting for me nearby, so forgive me is some of the photos of the inside are a little blurry….
The church of Saint Lucia in Parma is located at the intersection of what once was the cardo and a stretch of conjectural decumanus. This area was included within the walls of the ninth century, and then the church – perhaps of Lombard foundation – was already there with the medieval name of San Michele of the Channel. The name “Channel” was due to the presence in front of the City Channel, and the church was first cited in 1223 and attributed in 1294 to the Chapter of the Baptistery, when a chaplain took office “for the care of souls.” During archaeological excavations it has been traced the original polygonal apse wall, directly below the present presbytery. This church with its original structure was maintained throughout all the medieval periods, from the Carolingian to the House of Visconti and it’s located on the north side of the “Rest in Peace” built in 1347 by Luchino Visconti who ordered it to his architect Franceschino Stupa. (The “Sta in Pace” – Rest in Peace – was the common use to turn the center of the city – usually near the City Hall – into a real fortitude on the example of the “Stanpace” of Tuscan cities and of the “En Paix” in France). The church was not affected by urban developments or renovations in the Renaissance era and the first news of the church that we have after the medieval period, it was the visit from the Bishop Castelli in 1578 who quoted it as a parish having “368 souls with already five altars and the major one dedicated to Saints Michael and Christopher”. The church will then be registered in 1615 as the see the Congregation of St. Charles. In 1674 the parish was suppressed and the church passed to the “Consortium of the Living and the Dead” (born in 1304 to provide charity works with the donations to the Cathedral of Parma) that provided to carry out extensive refurbishment in the current architectural form, including the facade, designed by Mauro Oddi (1639-1702).
The interior has frescoes by the parmesan painter Alessandro Baratta (1639-1714) as reported by Borra in his “Diary” dated December 13, 1694: “Today was solemnly celebrated the feast of St. Lucia with music. The Oratory dedicated to Santa Lucia was today for the first time seen all painted, finished a few weeks, by Messer Alessandro Baratta Painter in Parma”. The nave was divided into three sectors by Baratta, following what he had already done in 1676 in the chapel of St. Joseph in the Church of Santa Croce. He resumed, however, as compositional scheme, the one he had prepared for the previous frescoes of Santa Cristina. Frescoes of Santa Cristina that the Baratta didn’t entirely finished because the figures were painted by Filippo Galletti (1636-1714). This succession of artists that took place in Santa Cristina had some critics believe that the Galletti had intervened in Saint Lucia as wewll, but there’s no historical evidence that at that time the Galletti was in Parma. The dome shows the images of the Virgin Mary trampling the crescent moon and is flanked by St. Joseph and St. Biagio followed by Saint Antonio of Padua, Carlo Borromeo, Filippo Neri, Mary Magdalene, St. Francis and St. Lucia, while the pendentives show Saints Peter, Paul, John the Baptist and John the Apostle.
In the following century were performed other pictorial additions and interventions, both entrusted to Antonio Brianti who was asked in 1781 to design the decoration of the arches and the vaults of the chapel. The Brianti had ten years before, in 1771, designed both the choir and the organ. The final phase of painting dates from the late nineteenth century and was the work of Serapione Colombini. If Colombini is the author of the reconstruction and repainting on the work of Baratta, as in the figure of the Virgin, is the intervention of the decorator G. Baisi that in 1885 truly repainted, overlapping the decorative eighteenth century plant, the whole surface of the church from the drum and the frame of the nave till the floor, letting another decorator, G.Rusca, the realization in plaster faux marble the bases of the pillars.
Of no less importance, albeit with appropriate distinctions between them, are the paintings that adorn the four chapels and apse walls, which find their highest artistic expression in the painting (finished in 1730) by Sebastiano Ricci, of the altarpiece depicting the Holy St. Lucia. The other paintings are works by, or attributed to, Luigi Amidano (1591-1630), Antonio Ligori (seventeenth century), Francesco Monti said Brescianino (1646-1712) and of Parmesan school of the sixteenth century.
Of great artistic value also the wooden apparatus, dating from the eighteenth century, of the altars of the side chapels. Nothing can be said about the main altar that appears an eclectic work of the early decades of the twentieth century and which incorporates the staircase and the funerary urn, residues maybe of an original seventeenth-century altar but that were sacrificed by renovations in the twentieth century, of the original ones, probably made of wood.
The complex of Saint Lucia, even with the interweaving of the interventions that have taken place over time, represents, for the uniformity of design and decoration, particularly of the vault and the dome, one of the finest Parmesa artistic expression of the seventeenth century as a result, although born from demolition and extension of the apse of the original thirteenth-century church, of the intelligence and the innovative spirit of the Consortium of the Living and the Dead since it became owner of the church.
I live in Parma since I was born, nevertheless, as incredible as it seems, I’ve never been inside this church, located on one of the main streets (especially for shopping) of the city….and I’m glad I finally did and that I learnt more about it. This blog has done this to me too, it made me more curious about new things, near or far…..