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POSTPONED – The Holy Mountains of the Western Italian Alps: Pilgrimage, Art, and Society in the 16th Century

Saturday, Apr 18, 2020


This conference, organized by Geoffrey Symcox (History, UCLA), explores the history and extraordinary art of the Sacri Monti and highlights the contributions of young scholars to this new field of research.

The cluster of pilgrimage centers known as the Sacri Monti, or Holy Mountains, in the western Italian Alps, is attracting increasing scholarly attention. In part this is because in 2003 they were named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, in recognition of their unique artistic character. The first Sacro Monte, at Varallo in the alpine foothills north of Turin, was founded in the late fifteenth century by a Franciscan friar, as a substitute version of Jerusalem for pilgrims who could not make the journey in person. He designed it as a topographical replica of the Holy Places, centering on the Holy Sepulcher. Subsequently, the artists working at Varallo in the sixteenth century, who were mainly local men, reconfigured this original topomimetic concept into a sequence of dramatic tableaux recounting the life and Passion of Christ. These were housed in individual chapels, and were composed of large numbers of realistic, life-size painted terracotta figures, backed by frescoes. In this form, Varallo became the prototype for a “second generation” of Sacri Monti founded at different places across the western Italian Alps in the seventeenth century under the impulse of the Counter-Reformation. Together, as UNESCO’s recognition attests, they constitute a cultural artifact unparalleled elsewhere in Italy or in the rest of Europe.

Funding is provided by the Endowment for the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Co-sponsored by the UCLA Department of History and the UCLA Division of the Humanities.


Saturday, Apr 18, 2020
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