Santa Maria Assunta, Montepulciano

When you’re in Italy in August, churches and cathedrals have the added bonus of being cool and dark when you’ve been by the pool all morning.


If you turn left immediately as you enter, you come face to face with Bartolomeo Aragazzi, a famous son of Montepulciano. He became secretary to Pope Martin V (pope from 1417-31) and he warms my heart by being known for scouring French and German monasteries for manuscripts to publish, for example the works of Vitruvius. I was amazed at the carving of the pillow he slept on too.


What astounded me about the churches I saw in Italy was the artwork. I absolutely understand the difference between catholic and protestant approaches to decorating, but nobody said just how intense the works can be. The altarpiece here at Santa Maria Assunta does take your breath away. Painted by Taddeo di Bartolo it shows the assumption of the Virgin Mary i.e.  the moment her tomb opened and she was taken up to heaven. Luminous, I think you’ll agree.


This amazing barrel-vaulted nave seems to channel all the light down the length of the building onto the altar.


The outside of the cathedral does not do justice to the treasures that are held inside.


You can see a curve near the roof-line  which shows where the barrel-vault was added and along the roof line you can see windows (top right) that repeat the length of the building. It is these that flood the nave with light.

I’d love to go back and explore more of these buildings. I fell in love with the scene in the English Patient* where Kip shows Hana frescoes by the light of an army flare.

And where do they pull up outside? The interior is, however, somewhere else – if you know please let me know too!


*Origianlly written by Michael Ondaatje, it’s an amazing novel set in the desert of North Africa prior to the Second World War and then in Italy during the conflict. It was made into a film starring Ralph Fiennes and Kristen Scott-Thomas in 1996. Both are incredible.


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