Benedetto Buglioni, 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. Here Mary is raised on a platform, though kneeling, at the centre of an open circle of the Apostles. The figures' heads project in higher relief than their feet, and the floor seems sipped up, making the figures seem to lean out into the viewer's space. The Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove) is sculpted and painted in the centre of the dome that rises above the central space of the chapel, with the tongues of fire painted like giant red rain drops coming down the dome, and so the viewer, standing under the dome, is placed in the scene and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit just as Mary and the Apostles do. This sculpture has been attributed on the basis of style to Benedetto Buglioni, who specialized in terracotta. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.