Orvieto Cathedral: the low reliefs--page 3 (of six pages)

Lorenzo Maitani
1310-1330 CE

The six pages include the following:
page one: exterior views, rose window, mosaics
page two: bronze Evangelists' symbols (Maitani); 20th century bronze door
page three: pillars one and two: stories from Genesis and Messianic prophesies (Maitani)
page four: pillar 3: New Testament events--life of Jesus (Maitani)
page 5: pillar 4: Last Judgment
page 6: interior views; Gentile da Fabriano fresco

The first pillar: scenes from Genesis--the creation of the world and mankind, the Fall, the sin of Cain, and the first human activities

A branch of ivy winding up the center and across horizontally, divides the panels into 5 rows. (Actually the very bottom row is two rows but the ivy starts at the second row up. The bottom row, partly obscured now by the protective plastic at a human's head level, depicts the first five days of creation when God created plants, birds, fish, quadrupeds, and man.

Row two depicting God blowing life into man and taking a rib from Adam--center, and creating Eve--right


Row three, left side, with God, accompanied by angels, forbidding Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree

The serpent twists around the tree which has stylized rivers at its base emanating from a spring which probably represent the four rivers of paradise, mentioned in Genesis.

Row three, right panel: The Fall

Eve offers the forbidden fruit to Adam. On the right God looks down from the clouds while Adam and Eve hide behind a tree.

Row four, left side: Adam and Eve driven out of Paradise

The angel wields a sword and paradise is surrounded by fire to prevent the disobedient couple's return. On the right side (not shown) Adam and Eve must labor for their sustenance.

The top two rows

The lower of these scenes depicts the sacrifice of Cain and Abel and Cain's murder of his brother while the topmost shows human activities after sin--agriculture and the development of the arts. On the topmost right panel, a man (an artist, some think Maitani himself) draws on a paper.

The second pillar--the Messianic Prophesies

Abraham (or Jesse) sleeps in the center of the bottom row (partly obscured by the protective plastic). In the center in the acanthus spirals, David, Solomon, and other Old Testament figures are sculpted with Mary and Jesus at the top.

The bottom rows with the skeleton of Abraham in a coffin. Right: a debated incident in the life of Moses

Continue to page 4.

Works Consulted:
Anna Caprespa. The Cathedral of Orvieto. Sesto Fiorentino: Casa Editrice Perseus, n.d.
Eraldo Rosatelli. The Cathedral of Orvieto: Faith Art Literature. Perugia: Quattroemme Srl, 2000.

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© 2005 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.

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