THE SOUL OF VOLTERRA
Volterra Cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin, was consecrated by Pope Calixtus II, major renovation and extension work had been carried out on an earlier religious complex.
…There is a tradition that this was where the home of Pope St. Leo the Great once stood.
The façade has a tympanum, or gable, with a blind loggia, a large rose window and a marble portal whose lunette is adorned with a geometrical mosaic made using ancient Roman spolia in the 13th century when, according to Giorgio Vasari, the entire building may have been enlarged and decorated by the celebrated sculptor Nicola Pisano.
Inside, the basilica comprises a nave and two side aisles in a Latin cross plan and boasts a late Renaissance interior resulting from radical renovation between 1580 and 1584, commissioned by Bishop Guido Serguidi to bring the church into line with the new liturgical precepts of the Council of Trent.
The grand coffered ceiling in carved and gilded wood over the nave and transept, depicting paradise with Volterra’s own saints and the Assumption of the Virgin in the centre, is a true masterpiece.
The six chapels opening up off the side aisles house 16th century altars adorned for the most part with late 16th century altarpieces. Late Mannerist watercolour tones characterise the paintings which reflect the cultural strain of the Counter-Reformation
The interior of the Cathedral is home to an ancient pulpit, rebuilt in 1584 using bas-reliefs dating from the 12th century, a carved polychrome wood group depicting the Deposition of Christ from the Cross which can be dated to the first quarter of the 13th century, an elegant ciborium over the high altar made by Mino da Fiesole in 1471 and a new alabaster altar made by Volterran craftsmen in 2019.
The Cathedral complex also includes the large Chapel of the Virgin of Sorrows, which houses two polychrome terracotta sculpture groups attributed to Andrea della Robbia and a fresco by Benozzo Gozzoli depicting the Procession of the Magi.