Amalfi: Cathedral holds a trove of visual treasures
By LISA M. NOVAK | Published: November 8, 2010
Stunning is the word to best describe the Cathedral of Amalfi, an artistic standout in a country defined by religious imagery.
“The beauty of art makes us feel closer to God,” reads a very informative pamphlet explaining the opulence and artistry of the many treasures contained in this 12th-century Italian edifice. The cathedral, though small in area, is a stellar example of the use of art and architecture to convey a sense of reverence and history.
Set dramatically above Piazza Duomo, the central town square, the cathedral was built in about 1100 alongside a sixth-century basilica, which has become part of the cathedral complex.
The first view one sees when approaching the cathedral is of its magnificent gabled roof. A depiction of Jesus on a throne sits atop 12 Gothic mosaic arches framing each disciple, all on a gilded gold background. The roof is supported by a series of latticed marble arches of alternating dark and light, zebra-striped marble slabs.
An imposing broad stone staircase with more than 60 steps (perfect for wedding photos as we witnessed on our recent visit) leads to a set of 11th-century bronze doors from Constantinople, said to be the first of their kind in Europe.
Visitors enter the complex through the Cloister of Paradise, which includes a small 13th-century cemetery for Amalfi’s noblemen, and a garden surrounded by 120 interlaced arched columns. The walls display pieces of the 12th- and 13th-century Byzantine pulpit made of gorgeous intricate mosaic stone designs.
The Basilica of the Crucifix, built at about the end of the sixth century, is actually inside the cathedral. It now serves as a museum for many church antiquities, including the Angevin Mitre, decorated with 20,000 small pearls and rows of large rubies and emeralds; a 13th-century chalice; and a couple of carved ox-bone reliquary chests.
Proceed downstairs to the crypt and prepare for a visual feast. Marble inlayed columns, frescoed arched ceiling panels and gold trim moldings fill the space. There is something to see everywhere you turn.
The crypt holds the remains of St. Andrew, to whom the cathedral is dedicated. Andrew is the town’s patron saint and one of Jesus’ first disciples. His likeness is seen throughout the crypt and throughout the cathedral, including a larger-than-life-size bronze statue sculpted by Naccherino, a Florentine artist who studied under Michelangelo.
Though small compared with more famous cathedrals, what this building lacks in stature it makes up for in splendor. For the secular or the spiritual, it is an experience that makes a compelling argument for the power of devotion to create earthly treasures that all can enjoy.
From the Naples area, take Autostrade A3 toward Salerno/Reggio Calabria, exiting at Vietri sul Mare. Follow the signs to the Amalfi Coast (Costiera Amalfitana). Drive through the town of Amalfi and park in any of the municipal lots. The cathedral is in the center of town at Piazza Duomo.
The cathedral is open daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. November through March, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. the rest of the year.
Admission to the cathedral is 3 euros for adults and 1 euro for children younger than 14.
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in the immediate area. After all, this is Italy.
A pamphlet in English is provided for visitors explaining much of what is inside. You can also call the cathedral for additional information at 089-871-324.