Agnolo di Polo, attributed to
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This painted terracotta sculpture is in one of the chapels of the Sacro Monte at San Vivaldo. The Sacro Monte (literally sacred mountain) is a pilgrimage site built by the Franciscans. Small chapels each contain painted terracotta sculptures with events from the Passion of Christ. These chapels are arranged on the hilly terrain so that they evoke the actual geography in the Holy Land of the places in which the events occurred. In a time in which pilgrimage to the Holy Land was for the most part impossible (because the territory was under Muslim control), the Sacro Monte offered a substitute or a simulacrum that was thought to be efficacious. In 1516, at the request of the Franciscans of San Vivaldo, Pope Leo X promulgated a brief granting indulgences (time off purgatory) to all who visited the site, which made it a major pilgrimage destination. At this and other Sacri Monti (of which there are several in Lombardy and Piedmont), devotees were to come in penitence, perhaps at night with a lantern, and move from chapel to chapel saying prayers. As in Jerusalem, the Chapel of the Crucifixion in San Vivaldo is built on higher ground, and originally had underneath the chapel of Adam (no longer extant), as it was believed that Christ was crucified over the first man's tomb. The building, which was restored in the seventeenth century, includes a purposely manufactured crack in the floor and foundations, to evoke the earthquake that happened when Christ was Crucified. When approaching the chapel, viewers first see a relief of the mourning women, from which vantage point there is an opening, so that the Crucifixion can be glimpsed rising above. One inside the relatively narrow chapel, the viewers continue to look up at the long wooden crosses to Christ and the thieves above, and thus feel as if they are a part of the crowd painted on the wall behind. The sculptures in this chapel have been attributed on the basis of style to Agnolo di Polo, a follower of Verrocchio who specialized in terracotta. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.