The Assumption’s lunette

The monumental representation, in an acute arch lunette shape is currently placed in the Cathedral, above the lateral door of the left aisle.
The composition is enclosed within a frame decorated, in the centre, with a festoon decoration with bunches and vine grapes; on the right, it seems uncompleted; the outer edge, maybe not completely original, bears at the top a fragmentary Gothic epigraph that says: ..]em + beate virginis marie [….] [temp]ore MC[CC ..].
The Virgin, covered with a cloak trimmed with gold, is seated within a “Mandorla”, which is carried by six angels and surrounded by a decoration with plant motifs; her gaze is fixed, her face a little squared, the eye profile elongated and a thin mouth.
The group is above the empty sarcophagus; laterally the twelve apostles are aligned, full length, six on each side: among them it is possible to recognize James Major or maybe Paul (the fourth from the left with the sword of martyrdom); Giovanni (the next figure, identifiable thanks to the youthful facial features); below, Peter (on the left side of the sarcophagus, with the symbolic key); Thomas is kneeling immediately to the right of the tomb, he is shown in the act of receiving the belt of the Virgin (to prove the assumption of her body).
Some apostles are exchanging astonished glances; one of them indicates the miraculous event.
Over the twelve apostles, on both sides of the “Mandorla”, two groups of three angel musicians are assembled: some musical instruments bear traces of red colour.
Finally at the top, two figures of flying angels hold a huge crown; the space between this and the apex of the “Mandorla” is decorated with four engraved and gilded stars.
All figures gain importance by the abundant distribution of gilding.
The lunette was originally crowned the main portal of the old Cathedral and was a part of a larger decorative complex, which covered the main door entirely.
The lunette’s original location was mentioned by two citizens of Savona in a deposition given in 1624 to the Vicar of the Diocesan Curia of Savona, in relation to a miraculous episode in which the artwork would have been protagonist that same year: as told by the witnesses, it had already been the subject of popular devotion a century earlier, when credit for the end of a plague was given to the intercession of the Virgin.
Also, according to one of the witnesses, the lunette was granted to the communities of Savona, along with other marbles, following the dismantling of the old cathedral.
During the transportation from the District of the Mount (where the ancient cathedral was), the lunette fell but without suffering damage and, thereafter, remained abandoned for about twenty-two years outside the new cathedral, with the sculpted side facing the wall, until the aforementioned miraculous event occurred the 23rd of November, 1624, would have made it reveal the sacred image.
After that event, also mentioned in subsequent local sources, and the discovery of the representation, the artwork was placed in the chapel on the left side of the transept, as altarpiece of an altar that was dedicated to the Assumption, and yet here the Torteroli, who believes its date is the end of the twelve-century, and the anonymous author of a manuscript date back to 1867.
Consequently to the renewal of this chapel, the lunette was removed and placed in its present location around 1870

AA.VV., cura di Giovanna Rotondi Terminiello, “UN’ISOLA DI DEVOZIONE A SAVONA, il complesso monumentale della cattedrale dell’Assunta”, Marco Sabatelli Editore, Savona, 2002.

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