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Rome and Spoleto: Fra Filippo Lippi and Bishop Berardo Eroli in the Duomo of Spoleto

 

Jean K. Cadogan

 

Fra Filippo Lippi’s last mural project was the apse decoration (1466-1469) in the Cathedral of Spoleto. Although payment records reveal details of the chronology, technique, and execution of the murals, this paper will focus on the role that the bishop of Spoleto, Berardo Eroli, played in its genesis. Eroli’s involvement is attested in the documents, which reveal that the apse mural was not the only, or even the most ambitious project undertaken there. A new chapel for the sacred icon of the Madonna, the church’s great treasure, was also begun at Eroli’s behest in 1466. The murals recall in subject and general design the mosaics in the apse of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. In addition, in Spoleto as in Rome, the holy icon was displayed to the faithful on the feast of the Assumption (15 August). As in Rome, Lippi’s images in the apse visualize the events that culminated in Mary’s coronation in heaven and create a monumental frame for the Assumption rituals. Bishop Eroli’s concurrent projects to link the holy icon with the apse imagery served to elevate Spoleto by emulating the venerable traditions of the Eternal City.