San Daniele del Friuli and the Frescoes of Pellegrino at Sant' Antonio Abate
San Daniele del Friuli is a picturesque small town on a hill in the western moraine region of the river Tagliamento. It is famous for its raw ham - the San Daniele Prosciutto. Let this prosciutto melt on your tongue with a glass of wine from Friuli and let your eyes marvel at the frescoes of Pellegrino in the church Sant' Antonio Abate, which is of the best of Renaissance frescoes Friuli has to offer.
The church belonged to the Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony, a laic congregation, which built up a network of churches with affiliated hospitals, which were meant to give medical as well as spiritual assistance to travelers and those in need, throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. San Daniele's Sant' Antonio Abate church was first mentioned in 1308, but was so badly damaged by the 1348 earthquake that the possibility of demolishing it was considered. Finally, the church was restored as a simple hall-church with an open roof truss.
The church, being situated unimposingly in a side street of the historical center of San Daniele, doesn't stand out in proportion or position from the row of buildings that surround it, except for its exquisite choice of material: Light-coloured stone from Istria, was carved most elegantly: A stepped columned doorway with a tympanum relief with the figures of St. Anthony, St. John the Baptist and St. Anthony of Padua, surmounted by godfather plus a rose window with the Virgin and Child. Work on the façade was completed in 1370.
Frescoes, done in the second half of the 14th century, embellished the interior of this house of God. However, they didn't meet the liking of the congregation, which in 1497 commissioned Martino da Udine, also called Pellegrino, with new frescoes, to be painted over the existing ones. Pellegrino (1467-1547), who trained as a painter at Udine, had by then already succeeded in making a name as a painter in the wider Udine area. In addition, he had family ties to San Daniele, where his wife came from and an uncle was a priest there. It all might have added up to recommend him for this commission.
Pellegrino complied with the task in several stages, differing so much in style, that not only the skilled eye may be able to distinguish them and thus may also be able to witness the stylistic evolution of Pellegrino within a single complex of art: In 1497 he decorated the apse with a fulminant crucifixion, surmounted in the vaults by personifications of Godfather and the four Evangelists. Given their richness in detail, these frescoes almost appear reminiscent of the late Gothic style.
In 1513-1514 he extended the imagery with church fathers and prophets, illustrated in the vaults of the presbytery and in the steady rest of the right wall of the presbytery he depicted a miracle, telling of the legend of St. Anthony: the resurrection of the drowned infant. Pellegrino, who by then had just returned from several years in service at the court of the Este family at Ferrara, is now much more reduced and severe in his style; he has learnt to adopt the classical ideals of the High Renaissance.
The frescoes painted in 1522, in contrast, are influenced by the style of the "Sfumato": At that time, Pellegrino framed the crucifixion to the left with a feet washing of Jesus and with temptations of St. Anthony in the steady vaults above. The right side of the crucifixion he adorned with a descent into hell. Furthermore, he decorated the wall of the triumphal arc with scenes from the childhood of Jesus, plus with saints and angels, thus including parts of the walls of the nave.
Parts of the older frescoes, which were not painted over by Pellegrino, are preserved on the left wall of the nave. Unfortunately, all frescoes suffered severe damage during the earthquake of 1976, numerous voids make the losses obvious.
It’s good to know:
Drive from Villach to San Daniele del Friuli about 1 hour.
Former Church of Sant' Antonio Abate
33038 San Daniele del Friuli (UD)
Open daily from 8 am to 6:30 pm, free entrance
About the Prosciutto-festival (28th of June until 1st of July 2013) and further places of interest at San Daniele (English, German, Italian):
Recommendable for Prosciutto and Pizza:
Prosciutteria Pizzeria La Bussola di Antonio CristianoVia del Lago N. 2S. Daniele del FriuliTel: 0039 - 0432 - 957 895
Zum Schinkenfest (28. Juni bis 1. Juli 2013) und zu weiteren Sehenswürdigkeiten in San Daniele (it, dt, engl):