PIAZZA DEI MIRACOLI, Camposanto The Triumph Of Death

Audio File length: 2.45
English / USA Language: English / USA

Life and death: these are the two major themes that the frescoes of the Cemetery have in common, and which will make them unforgettable. The most famous scenes of the cycle are definitely those painted by Buffalmacco in the first half of the 1300s after being commissioned by the Dominican Friars.

Go directly to the famous fresco called The Triumph of Death on the wall to the left of the entrance. As you can see, the fresco is unfortunately very damaged, especially with regard to color, but you can still admire all the rich details, the extraordinary expressiveness of the figures, and the narrative force of the scenes where you can also hear the echoes of the shocking visions narrated by Dante in the Divine Comedy. The noble procession in the center of the fresco makes you think of a carefree scene with a chivalric atmosphere, and in fact the presence of hawks and dogs suggests a cheerful hunting trip. But instead of game, there are three open coffins waiting for the participants. The scene, known as The Three Dead and the Three Living, is quite dramatic: there are in fact three corpses in the three coffins, each in a different state of decomposition. The smell of death is such that the rider in front of the central coffin is forced to plug his nose. The episode seems to be a warning, and one that is made even more explicit by the presence of the monk Macario depicted at the foot of the uphill road leading towards a life of prayer and humble work. The symbolic value of the contrast between the vanities of worldly life and the authenticity of monastic life won't be lost on you, which is illustrated by the four eremites at the top.

On the other side of the central hill, a battle between angels and demons rages. Below them, Death appears in the horrible vision of a winged monster, tearing the souls from the pile of deceased in a gruesome tangle of bodies. And like a horror film where a calm interlude serves to further emphasize the tension, in the lower right half of the fresco you can see a group of elegant youth enjoying a relaxing moment in the garden, but in a few moments Death will inevitably fall upon them as well.


FUN FACT: Buffalmacco is also a literary character. Together with his friend Bruno, he would successfully play practical jokes at the expense of the gullible Calandrino in some of the funniest novellas collected by Giovanni Boccaccio in Decameron.

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