Martina Bollini, IASblog staff writer
What is one of your favorite artworks?
The 13th century frescoes in the Oratory of San Pellegrino in Bominaco (L’Aquila, Abruzzo).
… . and your favorite detail?
I love the figure of Saint Michael, depicted on the west end of the south wall. The archangel Michael is traditionally represented holding a scale and weighting the souls of the resurrected on Judgment day. Here, he is presented as a beautiful, unperturbed angel whose classical features remind of antique statues; a figure out of time and styles.
I visited Bominaco while travelling in the beautiful region of Abruzzo. Surrounded by mountains, this village is quite remote, and the exterior of the small Oratory of San Pellegrino gives no indications of the value of the treasures inside. When I entered the building, a single-nave structure, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the frescoes, which cover the walls and vaults entirely.
IASBlog (Martina Bollini) explains …
Together with the Abbey of Santa Maria Assunta, the Oratory of San Pellegrino was part of a monastic Benedictine center founded in Bominaco in the 11th century and connected to the Abbey of Farfa (Lazio).
The frescoes of the Oratory are considered the most important medieval paintings in the region. We do not know the name of the artists involved in the decoration, but inscriptions give the name of the founder, the abbot Theodinus, and the date of 1263.
There are three main narrative cycles: the Infancy of Christ, a Passion cycle, and the Life of Saint Peregrine. In addition, there are registers depicting heaven and hell, a calendar with scenes of the labors of the months, and a variety of single figures. Each cycle seems to be related to a different liturgical function. In this way, the wall paintings turn a simple, modest structure into many complicated sacred spaces, independent but also unified.
Further reading: Jérôme Baschet, Lieu sacré, lieu d’images. Les fresques de Bominaco (Abruzzes, 1263): thèmes, parcours, fonctions (Paris: La Découverte, 1991).
View of the Oratory from the entrance wall.
Details of the wall paintings (photos of the author).
Now it’s your turn. What is your favorite artwork? And your favorite detail of it? Why? Send us your answers by clicking the “Submit” button, and we will feature your favorite in a post.