Il monumento funebre ai genitori del cardinal Partino
di Montefiore dell’Aso
Autore: Mirko Bonanni
CARDINAL GENTILE AT MONTEFIORE DELL´ASO
So rich is Italy in important works of art from the Middle Ages that many significant monuments are still barely known, even to specialists in the field. For many years the extraordinary double tomb at Montefiore dell´Aso has existed on the margins of scholarship. Now, through the research of Dott. Mirko Bonnani it has finally been given the extended discussion and illustration which it merits, locating it within the rich panorama of Italian gothic tomb sculpture dating from the late Duecento and early Trecento. It is a very rare and early example of double tomb of a lay couple, difficult to parallel in Italy during the period.
The tomb preserved in San Francesco at Montefiore dell´Aso is linked to one of the most fascinating of the cardinals chosen by the great late thirteenth-century pope Boniface VIII (1294 – 1303). Trained in the same Franciscan custodia as Girolamo d´Ascoli, the first member of the Order to be elected to the throne of Saint Peter as Pope Nicholas IV (1288 – 1292), Cardinal Gentile rose through his intellectual gifts. Like numerous other ambitious and able mediaeval prelates Gentile was a graduate in theology at the University of Paris, and later taught at the papal Curia, occupying the post of Lector of the Sacred Palace. Boniface VIII created him cardinal of SS.Silvestro e Martino ai Monti in 1300 and he became papal Penitentiary two years later. Gentile was active also as diplomat, and in 1307 was chosen by the first of the Avignonese Popes Clement V (1305 – 1315) for the arduous and delicate negotiations over the succession to the crown of Hungary. On his return from Hungary which took place in early September 1311, Pope Clement ordered him to proceed directly to Assisi where the papal treasure, left in safe keeping at San Francesco since the death of the Dominican Pope Benedict XI at Perugia in 1304, awaited a secure escort to Avignon, the city where Clement V had finally chosen to establish the papal curia. Our knowledge of the exceptional richness of this treasure comes from a great inventory drawn up by papal officials over several months at Perugia in 1311. Cardinal Gentile personally accompanied the treasure from Perugia as far as Lucca, where he suddenly fell ill and died on 27th. October, 1312. The papal treasure, divided for safe keeping between the sacristy of San Frediano and the Dominican church of San Romano at Lucca was plundered two years later by the local Ghibelline forces under Uguccione da Faggiola, with the connivance of the Signore of Lucca Castruccio Castracani and scattered to the winds.
In recent years the contours of Gentile da Montefiore´s artistic patronage have become considerably clearer. He was certainly the initiator of the decoration of the Cappella San Martino in the Lower Church of San Francesco at Assisi, where the leading Sienese painter of the age, Simone Martini produced the first great manifesto of Sienese fresco painting outside Siena itself, although the actual choice of Simone may have been made by the testamentary executors of the cardinal. Gentile was however personally responsible for the elegant design of his seal, an object used by the cardinal on a daily basis. It demonstrates him to have been a cultivated patron of sophisticated gothic goldsmithswork. Papal goldsmiths are documented in Gentile´s employment during this period. We also now know that he possessed important Bolognese illuminated manuscripts. This evidence makes it virtually certain that he was the patron of the exceptional sepulchral monument at Montefiore which forms the subject of this timely book.