Agnolo di Polo or Giovanni della Robbia, 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. Mary here is shown fainting because she is overcome with compassion -- a word that derives from the idea of suffering the Passion along with Christ. As in Jerusalem, this chapel is located along the path from the Chapel of Pilate's House to The Chapel of the Crucifixion. This relief has been attributed on the basis of style to Giovanni della Robbia, or, by more recent scholars, to Agnolo di Polo, a follower of Verrocchio who specialized in terracotta. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.