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Amalfi Cathedral

The Cathedral of St. Andrew, Amalfi is a highly unique cathedral full of interesting sights. Built in the early 1200s, the cathedral features a dramatic location atop a steep flight of stairs, an Arab-influenced exterior, and the relics of St. Andrew the Apostle in its crypt. Connected to the cathedral is an older basilica (now a small museum) and the fascinating Cloister of Paradise, both containing medieval murals.

History

There has been a church on this site in Amalfi since 596 AD and the one built in the 9th century still stands today. The present cathedral (added alongside the old one) was built in the early 13th century to provide a suitable resting place for the relics of St. Andrew the Apostle. Uniquely, the older cathedral was not torn down but left adjacent to the new one. The two were originally joined together to form a single, six-nave Romanesque cathedral.

St. Andrew is the patron saint of Amalfi as well as Scotland and Russia. The brother of St. Peter, Andrew was a fisherman and one of the first apostles. According to tradition, Andrew spread the gospel in Greece until he was executed by crucifixion on a diagonal cross in Patras. Andrew's remains were transferred from Patras to Constantinople around 357 to be placed in Constantine's new Church of the Holy Apostles.

During the Fourth Crusade, Cardinal Pietro Capuano swiped Andrew's relics from Constantinople and brought them to Amalfi. The relics arrived on May 8, 1208 and were placed in the cathedral's crypt, where they remain today. Some other saints' relics arrived at the same time, which are displayed in the cathedral's Chapel of the Relics.

Numerous miracles have been attributed to St. Andrew's intercession over the centuries. On June 27, 1544, a sudden surge in the ocean sunk the ships of Ariadeno Barbarossa, who had attacked Amalfi and Salerno. June 27 has been a feast day in Amalfi ever since.

Another miracle is said to be a regular occurance: a dense liquid called "Manna" appears on his tomb. Believers say this occurred at his tombs in Patras and Constantinople and regularly at Amalfi ever since the arrival of the relics. The Manna is collected in a crystal vial on the eve of the saint's feast day and other special occasions.

The Baroque period saw significant changes to Amalfi Cathedral as part of a major renovation. Among other things, the double cathedral was divided into two separate churches and each was decorated lavishly in the style of the time. The frescoes of the crypt were donated by King Philip III of Spain in 1660.

The Baroque decorations were fully removed from the old basilica in 1994, revealing the original medieval structure along with numerous frescoes. The main cathedral and crypt still retain their Baroque interiors.

What to See

Amalfi Cathedral looms impressively over the small Piazza Duomo from atop 62 broad stairs. Its facade, an 1800s approximation of the original, is an Arab-Sicilian riot of stripes, arches and mosaics. The bell tower on the left has a highly elaborate top, comprised of a central cupola surrounded by four turrets at the corners, all decorated with green and yellow tiles.

The cathedral's central portal features a fine set of medieval bronze doors, the first to appear in Italy. Commisioned by a wealthy merchant of Amalfi, they were cast in Constantinople around 1060 by Simeon of Syria (he signed his work). Remains of silver inlays depicting Christ, Mary, and various saints can still be seen. The bronze doors are framed by a Romanesque portal, carved with vines inhabited by mythical beasts.

The interior of Amalfi Cathedral is sumptuously Baroque but the underlying architecture is Romanesque. The triumphal arch in the apse is supported by two ancient columns from Paestum. The paintings on the walls and ceilings (by Andrea D'Asta and Castellano in the 18th century) depict the life and miracles of St. Andrew.

The high altar is made from the sarcophagus of Archbishop Pietro Capuano (d.1359), which is decorated with fine bas-reliefs of the Twelve Apostles with St. Basil, St. Nicholas, Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Niches in the right aisle display a large reliquary bust of St. Andrew (16th century) and the Coffin of the Dead Christ, which is carried in solemn procession through Amalfi on Good Friday.

To the right of the altar area is the Chapel of the Relics (a.k.a. Chapel of the Reconciliation), in which are displayed dozens of reliquaries. Some contain relics brought to Amalfi at the same time as those of St. Andrew. Stairs off the right aisle lead down to the crypt, but it cannot normally be accessed this way - one must go around through the cloister.

The Cloister of Paradise, entered at the left side of the cathedral's portico, is one of the highlights of Amalfi Cathedral. Built between 1266-68 to house the tombs of Amalfi's wealthy merchants, it features slender double columns and Moorish-style arcades made of pure white marble. In the center is a Mediterranean garden; the surrounding walkways are full of notable historic art.

The left walkway has some fine Cosmatesque fragments along with two 2nd-century AD sacrophagi depicting scenes from Greek myth (the Rape of Proserpine and the Wedding of Peleus and Thetis, respectively). Niches in the right-hand walking have damaged frescoes from the 14th century, including a Crucifixion by Roberto d'Orderisio of the Giotto school.

The cloister leads into the Basilica of the Crucifix, dating from the 9th century and containing more frescoes. The basilica now houses the cathedral's museum and treasury. Stairs near the east end descend into the Crypt of St. Andrew, where the saint's relics are kept in the central altar. The crypt is decorated with beautiful Baroque murals from 1660. The large bronze statue of St. Andrew (1604) was sculpted by Michelangelo Naccherino of Florence, a student of Michelangelo. The marble statues of St. Lawrence and St. Stephen (deacons of the Eastern and Western Church) were sculpted by Pietro Bernini, father of the more famous Gianlorenzo Bernini.

Quick Facts

Site Information
Names: Amalfi Cathedral; Duomo di Amalfi; Duomo di Sant'Andrea; St. Andrew's Cathedral
Location: Amalfi, Campania, Italy
Faith: Christianity
Denomination: Catholic
Dedication: St. Andrew
Categories: Cathedrals; Catholic Shrines
Architecture: Romanesque
Date: early 13th century
Status: active
Photo gallery: Amalfi Cathedral Photo Gallery
Visitor Information
Address: Piazza Duomo, Amalfi (SA), Italy
Coordinates: 40.634579° N, 14.60333° E (view on Google Maps)
Lodging: View hotels near this location
Phone: +39 089 871324

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Additional Photos by Csaba Witz (csabagaba) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 591 W: 172 N: 1399] (6554)
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