Museo Diocesano del capitolo della cattedrale (Diocesan museum)
The Diocesan museum is located in front of the cathedral in the architectural complex of Gesù. It was expanded on the initiative of Monsignor Giuseppe Franciolini in 1945 after restoring a building annexed to the cathedral. Along with the custodians’ quarters and the museum's administration office, exhibition halls have been created on two floors. The museum winds through nine exhibit halls and holds works of art dating back from the 2nd century A.C. to modern art of the 20th century. The collection is mainly from the churches of the city and has been moved here for conservation and safety reasons. It is obvious that the visitor must strain himself a bit to reconnect the artworks to the churches which he has visited to be able to better enjoy their beauty. The halls and artwork are summarized in the table located at the entrance to the museum where a detailed guide book is for sale. The most important works of the museum are here briefly described. Passing through the Sala I (Hall 1), where a magnificent sarcophagus from the 2nd century is kept (described on page 87), in the Sala II (Hall2) we see 14th century paintings from the schools of Arezzo and Siena. The most important are the following:
STORIES FROM THE LIFE OF SANTA MARGHERITA OF CORTONA The wooden tableau is attributed to a painter from the school of Margaritone of Arezzo (14th century) and might have served for the first burial site of the saint (description on page 90).
CHRIST CARRYING THE CROSS This is a fragment of a fresco removed from a demolished wall of the old church of Santa Margherita which was painted around 1335. It is attributed to Lorenzetti because of the dramatic expression, the face of Christ lined with physical and mental fatigue as he carries the cross.
MADONNA AND CHILD ENTHRONED WITH FOUR ANGELS This wooden tableau was painted around 1320 and is signed by the painter with a Latin verse saying “Pietro di Lorenzo of Siena painted it with ability”.
In the Sala III (Hall 3), which is the ancient Church of Gesù and where there is a wonderful coffered ceiling adorned with figures, created by Michelangelo Leggi in 1536, Italian masterpieces from the 15th century are displayed. Among these are:
MOTHER AND CHILD, from the Sienese school of the first half of the 16th century. It is a precious work painted on wood coming from the first church of Santa Margherita.
PAINTED CROSS (1320?) This work on wood is unanimously considered to be attributed to young Pietro Lorenzetti, an artist who has been defined Cortonese for the many works he executed here.
TRIPTYCH BY SASSETTA It is the last work from the Sienese school that we find in the museum. It was painted on wood around 1435 and represents the Madonna and Child with four saints in relief on a gold leaf background. Notable are the colors of the garments and the rich robes of San Nicola, the first saint on the left. It comes from the Church of San Domenico.
TRIPTYCH BY FRA ANGELICO This Madonna and Child on her knee is seated on a throne covered with a precious drape on a gold leaf background from which figures of angels come out. Completed laterally by the figures of four saints and above by an Annunciation and a Crucifixion, it shows on a predella below the illustrated life of San Domenico. Fra Angelico (Fra Giovanni da Fiesole 1395?-1455) opens a cycle of paintings which presents sacred illustrations striking the visitor thanks to the lines and the colors. The painting comes from the Church of San Domenico.
ANNUNCIATION BY FRA ANGELICO. The visitor now finds himself in front of one of the most beautiful tableaux of Italian painting. He can now enjoy the exquisite interaction of the two figures, the Madonna and the Angel in their precious garments. One should admire the architecture of the porch and the details of the flowering garden on the background from which Adam and Eve painfully take leave. On the predella there is an illustration of the life of the Virgin Mary which draws admiration for its richness and the inscribed details and luminosity of the landscape. This painting comes from the Church of San Domenico.
THE VIRGIN GIVES SAN TOMMASO A BELT This canvas recovered after a recent restoration is the masterpiece of Fra Bartolomeo later called "della Gatta", a Camaldolese Friar. It was painted around 1475 for the Church of the Contesse. The faces of the apostles, old, noble, gaunt or touching are all immersed in a deep and heartfelt meditation while blinded by the light emanated by the Virgin. Before disappearing among the choir of angels, she gives San Tommaso a belt.