THE HELLENISTIC TOMBS (3rd – 2nd century B.C.)


The Tanella di Pitagora This is a cylindrical shaped construction with a diameter of a little more than seven meters, which brings to mind a smaller version of the "Mole Adriana" in Rome. It is located in an inspirational spot, framed by cypress trees. It was already known in the 1500's and visited by Vasari who seems to have judged it as the tomb of Archimedes. Since then visitors have let their imagination run wild. Some people would think it was the tomb of Ulysses, others believed it was the one of Pythagoras. Every attribution was mainly due to the Greek-Hellenic style of its architecture. The monument underwent a progressive decay from the 1500s to the 1800s, when the French troops passing by caused extensive damage. The most recent examinations by experts date it back to the 2nd century B.C. It was donated to the Etruscan Academy in 1929 by Mrs. Maria Laparelli Pitti.


The Tanella Angori was discovered in 1949 while working on the land. It is similar to the Tanella di Pitagora in architecture but much larger than the other one. This tomb measures about 11 meters in diameter. There is little remaining of the monument, which dates back to the same period as the Tanella di Pitagora.


Roman Sarcophagus in the Diocesan Museum This artifact constitutes the most significant testimony to Cortona in the era of the Roman empire. Legend has it, the sarcophagus was found around 1247 in a field below the ancient Parish Church of Santa Maria, today the Concattredrale of Cortona. Finely worked in marble from the Apuane, it represents a battle between Dionysius and the Amazons in front of the wall of Efeso, maybe referring to the expedition in Tessaglia. The actual event is uncertain due to the impossibility to identify the other figures. It is interesting to note the vividness of the figures and there motion, which is accentuated by the torsions of the combatants’ bodies. On the left Dionysius is portrayed with a crown of grapevines on a chariot driven by a winged woman and two centaurs. On the far right there is a man on a horse dressed with Eastern clothing and has been unseated in front of the opening to the gateway of Efeso by an adversary standing and holding on the horses bit. At the center we see the battle scene. On the right side of the sarcophagus there is a standing nude centaur, which stabs an adversary with his spear. His adversary is on the ground dying but still trying to defend himself. On the other side there is a combat scene between two adversaries. The central medallion might be a portrait of the deceased. Vasari tells us that Donatello was so impressed by the sarcophagus that he told Brunelleschi about it when he returned to Florence. Brunelleschi was so overtaken with enthusiasm that he raced to Cortona without hesitation to draw it.


It is historically proven that a martyrial monument was erected on the tomb of the martyr bishop Vincenzo, martyrized under Diocletian (303-305), which was successively absorbed by a Paleochristian basilica, which was demolished in the 18th century. We can have an idea of the Paleochristian basilica's aspect by studying Piero Berrettini's map. As far as the tomb at the interior of the basilica is concerned, we are left with the archway of the tabernacle which was built over the martyr's tomb. This archway can be found in the Museum of the Etruscan Academy and is delicately worked and decorated and, along with other remnants, conserved in that museum. This can give us an idea of the religious and artistic veneration which surrounded the tomb of bishop Vincenzo in the Paleochristian and high Medieval periods. The Archway has an inscription which names Emperor Carlo and probably refers to Charlemagne.


According to Wadding, Guido, together with Vito and other Cortonese like Elias, was dressed with the Franciscan robes by Francis himself at the convent of "Le Celle". He lived a life entirely impressed with the charisma of Saint Francis and when he died (in 1247 according to a Cortonese legend, before 1239 according to Affò) he was buried beneath the main altar of the Parish Church of Santa Maria, the present day Concattedrale, closed in a Roman sarcophagus which had been recently recovered. The sarcophagus remained under the main altar until the second half of the 17th century when the altar was completely renovated by Cortonese architect Francesco Mazzuoli. It was then placed along with the remains of the saint in the left wall of the transept. From 1945 the sarcophagus was placed in the Diocesan Museum and the bones of Beato Guido contained in it were placed in an urn of pietra serena which was located under the last altar of the left wall of the Concattedrale.