MuCA :: Museo della Cattedrale di Anagni
Bishop’s foreword
As Bishop of the Anagni-Alatri Diocese, it is my honour to greet visitors to our Cathedral, Crypt and Museum. I wish to extend a most heartfelt welcome to this exceptional site, a rich treasury of humanity, life and faith which has had a significant influence on the long history of our City of Popes.
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Welcome to the Museum and Entrance Staircase
Welcome to the Museum of the Anagni Cathedral. This is Massimiliano, the hebdomadal deacon. I assist the chapter of priests who, ever since its creation, have overseen the diocese’s magnificent wealth of faith and art. I was welcomed here with exceptional hospitality, which I trust you will experience too. I also wish for you to feel guided and well-supported throughout the journey of discovery which you are about to embark upon, following the unfolding history of the city and papacy.
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1. The Library
We are now in the Capitulary Library, a remarkable collection of over 1800 volumes dating from between the 15th and 20th centuries. This is the fruit of the dedication of canons who have been collecting and donating the volumes ever since the dawn of print. The collection also comprises exceptional incunabula, or 15th century editions, the very first examples of printed press.
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2. The Chapter House
You have now entered the Chapter House. ‘Chapter’ refers to the assembly of canons responsible for a given church, so called as during their meetings canons would read a chapter of their Rule (if part of the monastic orders) or a passage from the Sacred Scriptures.
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3. The New Sacristy
The New Sacristy is a small room in which you will find vestments dating from the 17th to 20th centuries and other exquisite sacred objects such as chalices, pyxes, patens and monstrances. Of particular interest are the two ampoules in green glass and precious metal, which originally belonged to Pope Paul V, and a wood and mother-of-pearl reliquary cross. Furthermore, a number of reliquaries are displayed in the central cabinet, among which is a breathtaking silver bust of the Virgin containing the relics of her cloak. In the same display cabinet there is an interesting painting of the Flagellation of Christ dating from the early 18th century and the funeral mask of Saint Oliva, once found in the large reliquary in Room 2.
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4. The Sacristies
The Sacristies were created in the 1800s by enclosing a cloister-facing portico, an adjustment which is noticeable if you look out beyond the windows. These rooms feature a series of wardrobes and wood-panelled walls of exquisite manufacturing made here, in the region of Lazio. These date from the early 20th century and are characterised by plain moulding, straight lines and a purposeful simplicity, free of any unnecessary decoration.
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5. The Ancient Treasure
The majority of the items exhibited in this room are part of a donation made by Pope Boniface VIII, which is meticulously recorded in a precious manuscript on display in the Chapter House. Pope Boniface is considered both the last of Medieval popes and the first of the Modern Era. He was the last of a series of popes who regularly lived in the city.
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The Cathedral
The Cathedral was built between 1072 and 1104 by order of Bishop Peter of Salerno. Legend has it that Bishop Peter was sent to Constantinople as Papal Legate. In the course of his stay he healed the byzantine Emperor, Michael VII, from sudden illness thanks to St Magno’s intercession. The Emperor was extremely grateful for such a miracle and was therefore very generous with the Bishop. Hence, once back in Anagni, the Bishop was able to complete construction of the Cathedral.
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6. Our Saviour’s Chapel
It is said that Our Saviour’s Chapel was built by order of Bishop Peter of Salerno only after the Cathedral was completed. It was then consecrated by him to St Salvatore and St Benedict. The chapel was, from the offset, used for private celebrations by the Bishop of Anagni. Furthermore, it was initially connected to the church by means of a staircase accessible from the presbytery. This is evident if you look at the infill on the medieval wall in front of the current entrance.
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7. The Caetani Chapel
Building of the Caetani Chapel was completed in 1296. It was built upon the wishes of Pope Boniface VIII to hold the mortal remains of illustrious people linked to the Pope of Anagni and also to celebrate the spiritual and political power that he and his lineage were conferred with.
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8. The Ambulatory
As soon as you get to the bottom of the steps, you will find yourself in an area between St Thomas Becket’s Oratory, which you will visit next, and St Magno’s Crypt. This area has long served as a burial place for some of Anagni’s most illustrious figures who aspired to being entombed under the Cathedral, in a sepulchre nearest the sacred place par excellence: the Crypt. The staircase accessible from the nave on the left, which you have just walked along, was a later addition, built in the course of the 17th century
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9. St Thomas Becket’s Oratory
You are now in a Mithraeum dating back to the 1st to 2nd centuries, an old pagan temple dedicated to the god Mithras. This is the oldest part of the entire complex and still displays the original vault structure; its shape is often described as the upside-down hull of a ship.
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10. St Magno’s Crypt - Part 1
Welcome to the world-renowned Crypt of St Magno. This has been, since its very origin, a place of worship and art, a place of pilgrimage and a place for people seeking sanctuary, charity and hope. It is also a portal into the Middle Ages, a time when light and colour were a means to understand the celestial realm.
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10. St Magno's Crypt - part 2
Let’s now turn to the frescos on the first two vaults, the one immediately above the entrance and the one following it: these depict the Creation of the Cosmos and its components. On the first vault, we find a depiction of the Firmament with Zodiac Signs, a few of which, namely Leo, Cancer and Pisces, are still visible.
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10. St Magno's Crypt - part 3
The paintings along the vaults of the central nave narrate stories from the Ark of the Covenant, taken from the first book of Samuel in the Old Testament. The first vault is painted with the Battle of Aphek, during which the two sons of Eli, the high priest, are killed by the Philistines who then also take the Ark containing the Ten Commandments, along with Aaron’s rod, Moses’ staff and the Manna from the desert. Once such news is brought to Eli, he falls backward off his chair and dies.
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10. St Magno’s Crypt - Part 4
Now please go back to the centre of the Crypt, right in front of the high altar. The paintings on the apsidal conch and the three adjacent vaults illustrate the Apocalypse of John.
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10. St Magno's Crypt - part 5
Please make your way towards the exit, to find the last two altars: the smaller one is dedicated to martyr saints, while the larger altar is that dedicated to Bishop Peter of Salerno. The saint is painted on the small apse behind the altar, represented between Saints Aurelia and Noemisia. The fresco is dated 1324 and is attributable to Lello de Urbe, painter of the Cavallini School who was active in the city of Naples and throughout the region of Lazio during the first half of the 14th century. This is the same artist who painted the icon of the presbyter Raynaldo which you saw earlier, in Our Saviour’s Chapel.
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11. The Lapidarium
As we leave the Crypt and the Cathedral behind us, we enter the Lapidarium, which is divided into three large spaces. The first is a Cryptoporticus, a long corridor covered by imposing 13th century arches. This first room houses a precious archaeological collection of cippi, inscriptions and plaques dating back to Roman times. While in the three display cabinets we find artefacts which belonged to Onorato Capo and were donated to the Cathedral in the early 20th century. Of particular interest are the ollas, the oil lamps, a rare piglet-shaped rattle, and ex-votos, some of which are shaped as human organs or fruit. None of the objects displayed in this room are directly linked to the history of the Cathedral as they all actually predate its construction.
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