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FONTANA MAGGIORE——— MIDDLE BASIN


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The 24 marble statues of the middle basin

The Middle Basin showing 9 of its 24 marble statues


The middle basin is composed of several panels without decoration. On each of the 24 angles where the panels meet there is a small statue sculpted out of Carrara white marble. It is a gallery of statues that presents biblical personages, symbolic figures in addition to real and mythical people of the history of Perugia and of the world. Some of these sculptures represent well established typological figures—as Moses, David, Melchizedek and John the Baptist who pre-figure or anticipate Christ. Others are figurae in malo—as Salomé and the Traitor cleric (figure 12)—or figurae in bono, as St. Ercolano, the good cleric (figure 6), etc. The names of the statues with a brief caption are given below.
The viewing of the middle basin sculptures should begin, again on the side of Palazzo Vescovile, from the statue of St. Peter and proceeding counterclockwise. Thus the last statue of the cycle will be that of Victory.



(Click on an image to see a larger view)
     Statue 1 - Saint Peter
The most important of the 12 Disciples and the reputed author of two of the Epistles. He is recognized in the early Christian church as the leader of the disciples and by the Roman Catholic church as the first of its unbroken succession of popes. Peter, a fisherman, was called to be a disciple of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. He received from Jesus the name Cephas. While in Jerusalem he was imprisoned by Herod, but was visited by an "angel of the Lord ...and his chains fell off his hands". So Peter made his escape and "went to another place" (Acts 12, 17). He went first to Antioch and founded the bishopric of Antioch; then in c. 55 A. D. he went to Rome where, a few years later later (about 64 A. D.), was crucified.

Statue 2 - The Church    
The word "Church", in its original etymology (ecclesia), means the aggregation or assembly of Christian believers, living and dead, headed by Jesus Christ who founded it in the Apostles. The head of the Roman Church is the head of the Apostles, bishop of Rome and Pope, and the representative of Christ on earth. The figure holds in her hands a building, the place of the assembly, which is also called ecclesia or church. (See also Statue 3 - Rome).

 
     Statue 3 - Rome
The Capital of Italy and of the Roman Empire. Site of Vatican City, seat of the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Rome saw the Apostles Paul and Peter, Luke and Mark. Originally all bishops were independent in their own home town, but soon Rome, Antioch and Alexandria took precedence over the other cities. Gradually the legend of the Roman's bishop preeminence spread throughout and Rome became the only apostolic bishopric in the West—obviously because of the Apostle Peter. Thus, for Christians, the Church and Rome became in effect one entity.

Statue 4 - Theology

 
   
Theology is the field of study which treats of God, His attributes and His relations to man and the universe. Here the statue is looking up into the sky to try to comprehend God and His attributes as best as she can. But her sight is human and hence limited. So she uses the palm of her right hand to help focus on the object of her search. She will then record all on the tablet she is holding with her left hand.

 
     Statue 5 - Saint Paul
St Paul was the apostle to the gentiles. He and St. Peter are the two fundamental columns of the Christian Church. Paul was a Jew but, after the episode of the blinding light while on his way to Damascus to help suppress Christianity there, he converted to the new religion and begun teaching it in his missionary journeys that took him to so many places: Anthioc, Cyprus, Lystra, Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus etc. And back, more than once, to Jerusalem and Caesarea where was arrested and kept in prison for two years. Since his father was a Roman citizen, Paul appealed to Rome on his citizen's right. He was sent to Rome and kept under house arrest from around 60 A. D. till the time of his martyrdom a few years later. Roman Catholic theology leans heavily upon him.

Statue 6 - The good cleric    

The good cleric of San Lorenzo is a local symbol that is faithful to the local Church and local people (For contrast see Statue 12)

    Statue 7 - San Lorenzo
Roman deacon. One of the most venerated martyrs of the Church, died in 258 A. D. He is highly praised for his role in the conversion of Rome. After Christianity was outlawed in Rome, Pope Sixtus II and six deacons were beheaded by order of Emperor Valerianus leaving Lorenzo as the ranking Church officer in Rome. Thus he became the Keeper of the treasures of the Church—including, of course, its documents. For this reason, in addition of being represented as a deacon holding a gridiron, or a bag of money, he is also portrayed as a deacon holding a book, as he does here. The book is composed of the "ancient parchments and the new", the old and the new Testaments, and contains the divine Scriptures. San Lorenzo is the patron saint of Perugia together with St. Ercolano.

Statue 8 - Chiusi    
Chiusi's origin dates back to the first millennium before Christ. In the 6th century BC Clevsin or Chamars (Chiusi's Etruscan names) was one of the 12 most important cities in the Etruscan federation. In the same Federation was also Perugia. So ties between the two cities go back to time immemorial.
Chiusi is located about 30 miles from Perugia and situated in a fertile valley.
Here, Lady Chiusi brings to Perugia a symbolic bouquet of wheat.

     Statue 9 - Perugia
Perugia was founded by the Umbrians and her origins are pre-Etruscan. The Etruscan arrived from the West and occupied a vast territory of Umbria, especially the area to the right side of the Tiber—the river that crosses vertically and centrally the Region. The Etruscans enlarged the city and today Perugia still preserve a recognizable Etruscan structure. (See also "Introduction").
By the time the Fountain was being built, Perugia was well established as the most important and rich city in Umbria and in all the region between Rome and Florence. In the statue, here, the queenly Perugia is shown with the Cornucopia, symbol of plenty.

Statue 10 - Trasimeno    
Trasimeno, the largest lake of the Italian peninsula, is about 10 miles west of Perugia. The lake is fed by small streams and has an artificial subterranean outlet to the Tiber River. Trasimeno is known in Roman history as the scene in 217 BC of the defeat by Hannibal of the Roman army.
The lake is also called the Lake of Perugia, and Perugians use it as a bathing and fishing resort. Here it is figured as a Lady of the Lake that brings symbolic gift of fish to Perugia.

    Statue 11 - St. Ercolano
Bishop of Perugia who organized the resistance of its citizens when the Goths. led by Totila, besieged the city in 547AD. As a ploy to convince the besieging Goths that the city was well able to withstand their siege, Ercolano took the city's only remaining calf, fed on the last reserve of grain, and threw it over the city walls. The Goths had in fact already decided to lift the siege, when a young cleric named Laurentius revealed Ercolano's ploy to Totila. Consequently Perugia was stormed and burned; Ercolano was caught and beheaded. St. Ercolano is the patron saint of Perugia together with San Lorenzo.

Statue 12 - Traitor cleric    
The cleric who betrayed the efforts of Ercolano, the bishop of Perugia, in trying to push back the Goths who had besieged the city in 547 A.D.

    Statue 13 - St. Benedict
San Benedict was born in Norcia, a city in the province of Perugia, in 480 AC. At 14 he left Norcia to go to Rome to study, but disliking the confusion of the big city, withdrew to Subiaco to live as a hermit. Then he found the Benedictine Order and its first monastery at Monte Cassino. His Rule sets forth the central ideas of Benedictine monasticism, which concentrates in the maxim: "pray and work". The statue, here, portrays Benedict handing down the Rule to his first follower Mauro.

Statue 14 - The Baptist    
John the Baptist was the son of a priest of the Temple in Jerusalem. For a period he lived as a hermit in the desert of Judea. At the age of thirty he began preaching on the banks of the Jordan against the evils of the times and called people to penance and baptism. He attracted large crowds, and Jesus came to him, he recognized Him as the Messiah and baptized Him. John continued his preaching in the Jordan valley. The Tetrarch of Galilee, Herod Antipas, became fearful of the great power that John had over people, and had him imprisoned. Herod was in a relation with Herodias, wife of his half-brother's Philip, and when John denounced his adulterous marriage, John was beheaded at the request of Salomé (see statue 17), instigated by her mother Herodias. In the New Testament John is presented as the last of the Old Testament prophets and the precursor of the Messiah—whom he called "the Lamb of God". This is why here he is portrayed holding a lamb—the symbol of Christ.

  Statue 15 - King Solomon
King of the ancient Hebrews, son of David and famous for his wisdom. He ascended to the throne very young. His kingdom extended from the Euphrates River in the north to Egypt in the south His reign that lasted some 40 years was eminently peaceful. His crowning achievement was the building of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. As his father, he too was a poet and composed more than one thousand songs and some 3,000 proverbs. He wrote the Song of Songs, the Book of Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. He was in good terms with his neighbors, and one of the most celebrated visits to him was that of the Queen of Sheeba, who came from southern Arabia. Solomon's downfall came in his old age. He had taken many foreign wives and allowed them to worship other gods. He placed heavy taxation on the people and adversaries rose up against him. After his death his large kingdom was divided into two parts.

Statue 16 - King David    
Father of Solomon,
also king of the ancient Hebrews. His descendants, the House of David, retained the kingdom for several centuries. Jesus was of this royal seed. David was known for his skills as both a warrier and a writer of psalms. He remains famous for the story of the fight against Goliah, but perhaps more importatly he forced the Philistines out of Israel, and then began fighting wars against Israel's neighbors on the east bank of the Jordan, so that at the end of his 40 years of reign Israel was a very strong and consolidated power. As a writer of poetry, many psalms are ascribed to him.In the statue, here, David, "the humble psalmist", is portrayed with the psalterium
, symbol of his poetical skill.

     Statue 17 - Salomé
Salomé was the daughter of Herod Philip and Herodias. Herodias longed for social distinction, and accordingly left her husband and entered into an adulterous union with Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee and her uncle. Antipas was Philip's half-brother. St. John the Baptist rebuked Antipas for his adultery and incest and thus aroused the hatred of Herodias, who by the dance of her daughter brought about the decapitation of the Baptist. [The legend is narrated by both Matthew (xiv, 3-12) and Mark (vi, 17-29)].

Statue 18 - Moses    
The Hebrew patriarch who led the Israelites out of Egypt and who was their leader and lawgiver. He received the tablets of the Law on Mount Sinai c. 13th century BC. Moses was thought to have written the first five books of the Old testament (the Pentateuch). Prophet and lawgiver, during the x-xiii centuries, Moses was considered as both the founder of Judaism and as a figure of Christ (figura Christi). In the statue, here, he is portrayed as a lawgiver with the table of the Ten Commandments in his left hand, and with the shepherd crook in his right hand, prefiguring the Good Shepherd, that is Christ.

     Statue 19 - Matteo
When the Fontana Maggiore was built Matteo was the mayor of Perugia. He was from Correggio, about 10 mi. NE of Reggio Emilia. The custom of recruiting foreigners to cover positions of responsibility was a very common practice in Italy at this time.

Statue 20 - Archangel    

The Archangel Michael is mentioned in the Bible as a prince or warrior. He was highly venerated during this time. Michael is the conqueror of the hosts of hell, the lord and guardian of the souls, and the patron saint and prince of the Church militant. In Christian tradition and art, as he is in the statue here, he is represented as young and severely beautiful, bearing a sword and clothed in armor.

     Statue 21 - Eulistes
Perugia, following the trend widespread throughout Italy, chose a mythical pre-Roman hero as her "founder": Eulistes. And a few years after the construction of the fountain, the City decided to honor her past deeds and her "founder"; and asked a poet, Boniface from Veronaa man who had sought political asylum in the Umbrian city from the persecution of Ezzelino da Romano—to compose a poem for the purpose. So in 1293 Boniface finshed the nine-book work in Latin hexameters titled Eulistea, where, in the explicit, the noble Eulistes is called "Perusine conditor urbis", the founder of the city of Perugia. (The poem was published in 1850 in "Archivio Storico Italiano").

Statue 22 - Melchizedek    
Melchizedek, King of Salem and "priest of the most high God", first appeared in the Bible's Old Testament bringing bread and wine to Abraham after his victory in Genesis 14 over the four kings who had besieged Sodom and Gomorrah and taken his nephew Lot prisoner. In turn, Abraham gave Melchizedek as priest a tithe of ten percent of the bounty that he took in battle. Psalm 110:4 names Melchizedek as representative of the priestly line through which a future king of Israel's Davidic line was ordained. Thus, in Christian belief, he typifies the priesthood of the future Messiah.

     Statue 23 - Ermanno
When the Fontana Maggiore was built, Ermanno represtented the military authority in Perugia. He was from Sassoferrato, in the Marches . And hence, as Matteo from Correggio (see Statue 19), he was a recruited foreigner

Statue 24 - Victory    
The statue, here, is portrayed with a palm leaf in her hand, just like the Greek goddess of victory was always represented in this manner. The symbolism is very old, and goes back to pre-Christian times. The symbol was adopted by the early Christians, and both the palm tree and its leaf play a fundamental role in the Bible.
Here the statue signifies not only the actual victory of Perugia over the nearby cities, but the victory of man capable of bringing water to the very hilltop of Perugia.



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