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Jean de Wespin (il Tabachetti)
Annunciation , Virgin Mary , Gabriel , Holy Spirit , Conception , Jesus
Three distinct sculptural groups decorate this chapel, all of which are believed to have been sculpted by Jean de Wespin (c. 1567 - 1615) around 1599. Almost in a reversal of the structure he used in Chapel Four at Crea, the artist stages the main narrative on the floor in the center of the chapel, while other figures decorate the walls and altarpiece. Behind Mary and Gabriel, a large terracotta altarpiece depicts Judith beheading Holofernes in high relief. The heads of Judith and her Maidservant Abra were restored by Padre Giuseppe Latini in 1859. Around the four corners of the square chapel, sculptures of the four writers of the Gospels stand in niches with their animal or angelic attributes. The nearby city of Alessandria funded the chapel's construction despite being a longstanding enemy of Monferrato. A fresco of their crest survives on one of the exterior walls. The small porch that originally sheltered the entryway was removed in 1853. / The hill at Crea has used as a pilgrimage site since the Middle Ages, when locals began to honor a miraculous image of the Black Madonna that was said to have been brought there by Saint Eusebius (c. 283 - 371). A community of Augustinians occupied the monastery at Crea beginning in 1176, but they were succeeded by the Lateran Canons Regular, who cared for the sanctuary between 1482 and 1798. Since the Sacro Monte was founded in 1589, local rulers had a direct hand in supporting it, including the Paleologue and Gonzaga dukes of Monferrato. Most of the scenes have since been redesigned or replaced; only six of the twenty-three extant sculpture groups date to the site's original program, which illustrated the life of the Virgin Mary.
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