Other thoughts about the development of the churches with plan in latin cross. References to San Michelino in Foro.
Thanks to writings of New Testament and patristic comments, it's known that the church made with stones represents, in symbolic terms, the universal Church of the believers; each believer is part of the Mystical Body of Christ.(1)
Therefore the material church represents the Mystical Body of Christ.
Liturgists like Durandus of Mende, Honorius Augustodunensis, Sicardus of Cremona dwelt on this subject and described the Christian temple identifying its parts as parts of a human body.
Because of this mystical conception of the sacred buildings, the plan of the church was conceived as the picture of a man whose head is symbolised by the apse, the arms by the aisles, etc
As far as the buildings with cross-shaped plan are concerned, their plan could be identified with the form of a man with opened arm, thats the Crucifixion.
Specifically dealing with the churches with plan in latin cross whose plan expresses better than others the idea of the Crucifixion it must be said that they are supposed to have had a precise "inventor".
The "inventor" can be identified in St. Ambrose who was bishop of the city of Milan, in the second half of the IVth cent.. He conceived the building of S. Nazario originally Basilica Apostolorum -; it probably was the more ancient church with latin cross in the Christian world.
He left there an inscription whose meaning is quite clear:
"Ambrose founded the temple and consecrated it to Lord with the name of Apostles and with the gift of their relics. The temple has the form of a cross, the temple represents the victory of Christ; the sacred triumphant image identifies the place.
At the top of the temple is Nazarius, who spent a pious life and the floor is ennobled by the relics of the martyr.
Where the cross rose the sacred head bending in a round, there is the top of the temple and the house for Nazarius who, winner for his Faith, enjoys eternal peace.
Who , to whom the cross was victorious palm tree, is received in the cross."
Aurelius Ambrosius bishop"(2)
Serena, wife of Stilicho, the regent of the Western Roman Empire, decorated the same church with many kinds of marbles. She put there an inscription that resumed the meaning of the inscription left by Ambrose; this goes to show that it was generally known and probably considered innovating.(3)
So, it's possible to take the occasion to point out that the allusion to the situation of Milan in the IVth cent. seems particularly significant with reference to a sample of ancient church we have already dealt with in this website.
I mean what Seraux DAgincourt, after visiting it, considered ".. built in the fifth century; its plan in latin cross is one of the most ancient samples of application of this form to a church, that later become typical of the christian temples."(3)
Thats the riminese church of San Michelino in Foro. http://spazioinwind.libero.it/iconografia/Michel.htm
Actually, the author of this notes had already "dared" to point out, in absolutely hypothetical terms, that some of the architectonic characteristics of the church seem to recall those of some Milanese buildings of the IVth cent.
Maybe it's not out -of place to remember that, in 402 a. C. the imperial court moved from Milan to Ravenna and this event had important consequences, well documented by archaeological finds, in the near town of Ariminum.
So, reporting the passage of DAgincourt to the Ambrosian church quoted above , it's possible to get interesting indication about the riminese building.(4)
(1) J. Hani Il simbolismo del tempio cristiano pp.57-74 Arkeios Roma 1996.
(2) The whole inscription is known from a transcription of the XVIth cent., while only a few fragments of the original inscription still exist.
(3) QVA SINVATA CAVO CONSVRGVNT TECTA REGRESSV / SACRATAEQ CRVCIS FLECTITVR ORBE CAPVT / NAZARIVS TITAE IMMACVLABILIS INTEGER ARTVS / CONDITVR EXVLTAT HVNC TVMVLI ESSE LOCVM / QVEM PIVS AMBROSIVS SIGNAVIT IMAGINE CHRISTI / MARMORIBVS LYBICIS FIDA SERENA POLIT / CONIVGIS VT REDITV STILICONIS LAETA FRVATVR / GERMANISQ SVIS PIGNORIBVS PROPRIIS
(4) "Histoire del lart par les monuments", Tav. LXXIII, n.6 (1811).
In the picture here above you see the plan (1811 a. D.) of San Michelino in Foro (Rimini) with two sacristies in the two wings. Their building was ordered by the bishop during his visit in the second half of XVIth cent.
Picture above: the plan of the church with hypothetical protesis and diaconicon. http://spazioinwind.libero.it/iconografia/michelato.jpg
Picture above: the ancient plan of the church of San Nazario (Basilica Apostolorum) in Milan.
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