Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art – Volterra

Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art – Volterra

The municipality of Volterra is located in Tuscany, in the province of Pisa. The center is renowned for the extraction and processing of alabaster and has a history that can be compared to the most important centers in the area. It was one of the twelve most important centers of the Etruscan city-states and played an important role throughout the historical period of the Middle Ages, as it was a bishopric and its lordship dominated a large territory of the Tuscan hills.

Our Park Hotel Le Fonti is a 4-star hotel in Volterra and is the ideal place to take as a reference point for your journey to discover Tuscan culture, history and traditions.

Among the numerous places of interest in the town of Volterra, there is, without a doubt, the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, located in Piazza XX Settembre, inside the church of Sant’Agostino, it also has a branch located directly in the Palace. Bishop of the city of Volterra.

Inside the museum it is possible to see works of various kinds: from paintings, to sacred vestments, to antiphonaries, to reliquaries.
Let’s try to enter, with a virtual tour, among the rooms of this magnificent museum, where the atmosphere given by the church of Sant’Agostino makes it very suggestive.

The museum takes its first steps thanks to Corrado Ricci, a well-known art historian and archaeologist, and to the canon Maurizio Cavallini. Initially placed in the seat of the Bishop’s Palace of the city, the museum was closed for many years as it was subjected to heavy bombing during the Second World War. Only on 30 June 2017 and with a solemn inauguration ceremony, did she assume the position she is in today, as also requested by the last wishes of Mrs. Franca Paoletti Adamo, a prominent woman of the city.
The entire museum exhibition boasts valuable pieces, generally coming from the church that houses it and from the Cathedral of Volterra, in large part, and from the other churches of the diocese, to a lesser extent. What makes it special is the presence, inside, of paintings, reliquaries and furnishings that have been designed and produced within the same place.

From the entrance, the striking eye-catcher is given by an imposing 10th-century stone architrave, which is part of the church of San Lorenzo in Montalbano, in the province of Siena. Numerous ancient bells are placed under the stone architrave, emerge from the ground, and indicate the numerous bell towers that characterize the entire diocese. After passing the almost monumental entrance, you find yourself in front of an imposing altar, in the center, with side altars. Once on a platform, you can admire the paintings posted on red panels. This arrangement is useful to avoid altering the architecture of the church to the human eye and to bring out the entire set of works present.

After passing the entrance with the architrave and the platform with the paintings, the visitor will find on his left a crucifix in painted wood, dating back to the thirteenth century and coming from Castelfiorentino; while on the right you can appreciate a font in the typical stone of Volterra, the alabaster, coming from the church of Sant’Andrea and dating back to the sixteenth century. Continuing the path, you can see on the right a painted table in which there is the depiction of the Madonna enthroned and Saints, a work by the well-known Florentine painter of the fifteenth century, Domenico di Michelino. In the center of the room, on a platform, stands a glazed terracotta bust, the work of Benedetto Buglioni and dating back to the 15th century, representing the patron saint of the diocese of Volterra: San Lino, pope and martyr.

Continuing the path inside the premises of the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art in Volterra and going towards the main altar, always on the right it is possible to appreciate a magnificent ciborium in alabaster stone, from the 16th century. The ciborium has a very particular and characteristic shape: in the shape of a circular temple with columns. On the wall of the church you can appreciate a painting that represents the Annunciation and is the work of Benvenuto di Giovanni and dates back to around 1400.
Continuing to follow the central platform, after the glazed terracotta, a second bust catches the eye. This is a reliquary in silver and gilded copper, which depicts the hermit and Saint Octavian, protector of the municipality of Volterra, this bust is the work of Antonio del Pollaiolo. Following you can appreciate a series of ancient sacred vestments, which lead the visitor, as in a sort of procession, to the main altar.

Continuing the journey, we arrive at the chapel of the Holy Innocents. At this point the Diocesan Museum displays one of the precious pieces of its collection: the Madonna enthroned between Saints John, Baptist and Bartholomew. The work of Giovanbattista di Jacopo, known as Rosso Fiorentino dates back to 1521 and was esedrive through the ancient Villamagna. Turning your gaze to the left, you can see, in a chapel, the artistic expression of the most renowned painter of Volterra of the 1600s, namely Baldassarre Franceschini. His panel, which offers its frame to the tabernacle containing the Sacred Thorns of the crown of Jesus Christ, depicts Saints Thomas of Villanova and Clare of Montefalco. Always following the central platform, you will notice a last showcase, with an extremely refined two-volume antiphonary, illuminated by a monk of the Augustinian order and dating back to 1300.

Arriving at the end wall of the Church, you can see an access through a door that leads to the Sacristy. This too is of exquisite refinement, thanks to its perfectly preserved furnishings, consisting of furniture from the 1600s and with two showcases containing works, including modern ones, of high goldsmithing. After this brief jump into the Sacristy, your attention can return to the Church, where, when you earn your way out, you are entranced by the beauty of the Madonna enthroned between Saints Peter and Paul. The work of Braghettone, a painter also known as Daniele Ricciarelli da Volterra, was composed in 1545 for the small rural church of Ulignano. The painter is known by the name of Braghettone because he is the one who has provided to dress the nude figures of the Sistine Chapel, in the Vatican, by Michelangelo Buonarroti.
Inside the muzzle are also visible works by artists not mentioned such as: Stefano di Antonio Vanni, with a fresco from the Badia Camaldolese; and Giovanni Paolo Rossetti with an oil panel dating back to 1541.