He goes on to say that “It is principally the pressure of the Italian faithful and the zeal of the Italian clergy which prodded the Church to proclaim dogmas concerning La Madonna, codifying and sanctifying traditions and legends dear to the hearts of simple people.”
Of course at Christmas time, the Madonna is centre stage. She, and of course her new-born son, adorn Christmas cards, postage stamps, nativity scenes, Christmas gift paper, she moonlights in the form of decorations on Christmas trees, and of course, is the centre of attention inside churches.
La Madonna is, of course, seen in all of Italy’s churches. I’ve often heard people who have travelled to Italy say that if they see another church, they’ll go cross-eyed and perhaps totally mad. But aside from the number of churches, do we know what church we are looking at? Here’s the low down:
There are six main styles of church architecture in Italy and you can see all of them pretty easily. The Classical period, from 200 to 400 AD, is exemplified by the Arch of Constantine in Rome. The Byzantine period, from about the fourth to the tenth century, represents a continuation of Greek architecture, and is characterized by round arches, the use of brick instead of stone, central plan, domes, and mosaics, as can be seen in San Vitale in Ravenna.
The Romanesque period, from about eight hundred to the early Renaissance in fourteen hundred, saw the construction of the Duomo at Modena. Probably the best known Romanesque church is the part of the Campo dei Miracoli – the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The best known building that combines Classical, Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine is San Marco in Venice.
Overlapping the Renaissance style is the Gothic from about the twelvth to the sixteenth century. According to a writer during the Renaissance:
The Renaissance began in Florence, and saw a revival of Roman architecture and an articulation of forms and space based on precise measurements and proportions based on man. Classically styled columns, geometrically perfect designs, and hemispherical domes characterize Renaissance architecture. There are probably thousands of examples of Renaissance architecture, from Bramante’s Tempietto at San Pietro in Montorio in Rome, to Brunelleschi’s dome for the Duomo in Florence and the façade of Santa Maria de Novella also in Florence, designed by Alberti.
Then came the Baroque, best known for Rome’s St Peter’s Bascilica. Designed by Bernini it started in 1600 in Rome and spread throughout Europe. It was influenced by the Church’s encouragement that the representative arts should speak to the illiterate masses rather than the educated. It created a sensual and emotive experience.