Reflecting on Cimabue and the Mud Angels of 1966 Florence

He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”
St. Francis of Assisi

Cimabue's damaged Crucifix
Cimabue’s damaged Crucifix

The flood of 1966 in Florence devastated millions of art masterpieces and rare books. The Franciscan Basilica of Santa Croce was one of many buildings left in terrible conditions. Swirling river bottom mud settled inside the church, causing heavy damage to valuable works of art. It took a long time and a lot of effort to remove all of the debris. Because of its geographical location, Florence often flooded, always leaving behind a muddy mess.

Volunteers from around the globe came to clean the city of refuse, mud, and oil. They removed works of art, books and other valuables from flooded rooms. Conservators worked tirelessly to restore these pieces to as close to their original condition as possible. These volunteers became known as Angeli del fango–angels of the mud.

On my first visit to the Basilica of Santa Croce, I passed Cimabue’s Crucifix, painted in 1272. It was heart wrenching to see the degree of water damage that had altered the painting. 60% of its paint was missing. Housed in the refectory of the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Croce, the flood waters had risen to twenty feet, taking most of the paint off of the over 700-year-old Christ figure.

The wooden crucifix absorbed so much water that it expanded by three inches and doubled its weight. It took years for the cross to shrink back down to its original size. I could see spots with sections missing. The wood had cracked, it grew mold, and paint began to flake off even after it was removed from the refectory. Later on, the cracks were filled in with prepared Poplar from the Casentino Forest, where Cimabue obtained the original Poplar. Little restoration which can be seen with the eye has been applied to the Crucifix, and it still bears the effects of  water damage.

 

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Cimabue’s Crucifix before the flood (photo credit Wikipedia)

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Santa Croce after the flood above, and an exasperated volunteer with Cimabue’s Crucifix (photo credit Wikipedia)

 

 

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Mud Angels at work (photo credit Wikipedia)

 

“What we were doing was dictated by the desire to give back the traces of the history of the past to future generations, so that it could be used for the spiritual growth of people who perhaps had yet to be born….it was the international community that worked to try to save Florence, this unique patrimony that belonged to the whole world.”

Mario Primicerio, Speciale Alluvione

 

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Majestic Basilica of Santa Croce -photo credit Wikipedia

 

As I continued my walk through the church, I felt a deep respect and appreciation for the many old works of art. They were all beautiful and rich with color, painted by famous art masters of the late medieval and early renaissance. I was touched by how an international community of caring people pitched in together to help in a time of crisis, to save a heritage that is precious to everyone. It can be said that Cimabue’s Crucifix is a part of us all.

 

Splashes of Amalfi.

Amalfi

This pathway above the Mediterranean on the Amalfi coast indulged me with the most unforgettable exotic scenery imaginable. I’ve heard it said that the Amalfi coastline is one of the most beautiful in the world. Well, I haven’t seen them all, but I can’t imagine anything more intoxicating than this.

With just two days to spend in Amalfi, I was well on my way to a much-needed rest. I found a cushy chair in the mid-morning sunshine with an ocean view and settled back, inhaling the coffee and croissant smells from the nearby bistro bar. Birds chirped everywhere in their sing-song melody, the ocean breeze carrying it like tinkling chimes. Warm sunshine soothed away my Naples tension.  I was ready for a tranquil retreat.

Ferry Harbor
Ferry Harbor

A busy harbor of ferry boats brought people daily to different locations along the coastline. When I first stepped off the boat into the warm Mediterranean sunshine, it felt wonderful.  Judging by the looks of delight on other faces, I don’t think I enjoyed it alone.

What a View....
What a View….imagine climbing up to your villa!

No, I did not climb up through these villas. It was enough to gaze upon them from a cafe while sipping a cappuccino. I spent a few hours just pondering which villa I would choose to live in. It was a tough choice!

Lightposts twinkle at night, joining with the starlike lights from the tumbling hillside Villas
Sunwashed by day, lightposts twinkle at night, joining with the starry lights from the tumbling hillside Villas
Where would you like to go?
Where would you like to go?

If I could, I would visit every one of these places. Later in the day, as I walked up away from the water, I found winding alleyways full of tiny shops selling anything from homemade jewelry, artwork, paintings, leather work, and ceramics with yellow lemon themes. Small dining restaurants with terraces offering spacious views spotted the shopping districts. Elegant green shade trees canopied some of the walkways, offering a cool respite from the afternoon heat.

Walkway leading up to the shops and restaurants
Walkway leading up to the shops and restaurants–I was looking back toward the ocean when I took this shot
Bright orange unbrellas shade lounging sunbathers
Bright orange umbrellas shade lounging sunbathers

Although not a sunbather by nature, I did soak up some morning sun. Afterward, I found a shady spot and watched the little white boats bob around the harbor.

Looking northward towards Naples. My ferry will take me back around that rocky bend tomorrow.
Looking northward towards Naples–My ferry would take me back around that rocky bend tomorrow.

I discovered that the tower on the right was one of several built by the townsfolk centuries ago as lookouts for pirates who once roamed the coastline.

Dockside with lovely villas above
Dockside with lovely Villas above
My walk along a pathway back toward town and my hotel
My walk along a pathway back toward town and my hotel
Looking up at my hotel. My room is the top left.
Looking up at my hotel–My room is the top left with a balcony
Twilight from my balcony
Twilight from my balcony
Amalfi growing sleepy-looking down below my balcony
Amalfi growing sleepy-looking down below my balcony….The perfect ending to a lovely day
Good Night, Amalfi.....Buon Notte
Good Night, Amalfi…..Buona Notte

Amalfi and Harney Cottage 155