Maestro del Bigallo, 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. This sculpture of St. James Minor has been attributed on the basis of style to an artist known to scholars as the Maestro del Bigallo, on the basis of style. The documents are not clear on whether this is St. James Major or St. James Minor, but the latter seems more likely, given that there was a chapel dedicated to him in Jerusalem and his feast day was on the same day as that of St. Vivaldo. (The inscription painted on his garment, which may have been added later, identifies him as St. James Minor.) The pilgrim's staff, however, is an attribute of St. James Major, and Leo X's bull identifies him as such. St. James Major is also an appropriate subject for a pilgrimage site. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.