"Socrates Comenius Project"
Liceo Scientifico “G. Marconi” Carrara
Class II F
Prof. L. Codega
Carrara Cathedral, dedicated to the apostle St.Andrew, is a medieval
building whose structures are entirely made of Apuan marble blocks.
The cathedral is mentioned for the first time in a document of the year
1035 as "Ecclesia Sancti Andree de Carraria". It was only completed
three centuries later, and Carrara was still a little village.
The church is diagonally positioned in relation to the square in
front of it.
The architectural structure is complex, as it shows the different
phases of its construction and the fact that Lunigiana is a
The lower part is Romanesque, and the upper parts, in
particular the external ones, are Gothic.
The first phase of the
shows Parmesan and Pisan
influences. Many are, in fact,
the analogies to the cathedral
of Parma, especially in most
ancient elements, like the main
portal. However the horizontal
stripes of black and white
Colonnata marble of the façade
are typical of Pisan and
The second phase of construction (in
the second half of the XII century)
carried out by builders from Lucca,
is easily recognisable especially in
the frequent use of human and
animal figures and in Corinthian
In the second half of
the XIII century the
church tower was
The third and last phase of construction
(XIV century) is the work of Pisan
builders. It concerns the upper part of
the façade with the magnificent rose-
window and the portico which displays
a series of busts inserted on capitals;
they are important examples of Tuscan
sculpture. On the façade the final
element, which should overhang the
rose-window, is missing.
Towards the end of the XV
century the walls, which
had, until then, been left
rough and without plaster,
began to be painted. In
later age some altars and
ornaments were added.
In 1947-1948 the decision was made to restore the cathedral, as
much as possible, to its original condition: six altars were
removed. In 1992 the long and delicate cleaning work of the
façade and of the side portal, known as St.John's, was
DESCRIPTION OF THE
The church tower.
The church tower is about 33 metres tall, and is
entirely made of marble. It's made up of five
floors, on which windows of a making that
varies according to the storey open up. The
pyramidal-shaped spire is enriched by small
The execution of this work was doubtlessly
carried out in two different phases. There are
differences between the lower and upper
part, in which the ashlars are squarer and are
inserted with more regularity.
The aisles’ back walls and the external apse
The side aisles’ back walls present, in the upper part, small
arches that rest on corbels. In the lower part we find in
both sides an ogival window with one light.
The central aisle's back wall is decorated with small
ogival arches that rest on corbels on which human
heads or animals are engraved. The hollows in the
arches toward the square bear ornamental carvings;
among them a wheel and a cock are recognisable.
The external apse is semi-circular shaped. A small
loggia winds along its perimeter and rests on a
frame that is partly decorated with flowery
patterns; from there small pillars spring up and
they finish up with capitals of different shape
and size; some are decorated with a leaf, others
are geometrical in shape. The small arches above
the pillars are ogival. Down below three
windows with one light open up: in the central
one a man holds a leaf with the epigraph
"Andreas". Between the two side-windows an ox
and a palm leaf are carved.
In the façade it is possible to determine with precision the different
styles in the different epochs of construction. As it is, the lower part
is Romanesque and the upper one is Gothic.
At the base there are alternating stripes of black Colonnata marble and
stripes of white marble.
The most praiseworthy element of this façade is the
portal; at its sides it is possible to see two pillars
with finely executed capitals with flowery
patterns and human figures. In the round arch
rampant animals that culminate in an eagle,
nowadays beheaded, are represented. At the
margins of the pillars two columns are enclosed;
from them an arch, shorter than the first one,
starts. It is in the shape of a festoon and is
decorated with flowery patterns. The lunette is
decorated with geometrical patterns.
The upper part is characterized by the central rose-window that is
inscribed in a square whose sides are constituted by a rhomb-pierced
frame. The rose-window is formed by twenty mullions that form a
sunburst ornament and bear small Gothic arches. At the two sides of
the rose-window a loggia starts; its height decreases from the centre
to the exterior. The connection between the arches is constituted by
human heads that are, in some cases, real masterpieces of Gothic
The south side
The south side, which opens up onto the cathedral square, is divided, in the
lower part, into three sections, which are bordered by two pillars. The first
one recalls, with its black and white marble squares, the Romanesque
motifs of the façade. In it we find St.John's Portal, that is not unlike the
façade's one. The fine decorations of arch-beams and of the round arch are
In the other two parts it is possible to see
two elegant windows with one light.
In the first one an eagle is engraved
and the architectonical elements are
decorated in a rich and complex way:
one can see a human head and flowery
The second one, much
simpler, bears the sculpture
of a lion.
In the sottogronda of the lower part one can see
small round arches, some simple, others
decorated with flowery patterns or with
The upper part is decked with small ogival
arches; some are simple, and others, that are
the ones closer to the façade, are decked with
elaborate frames and bear, in the interdossi,
geometrical decorations such as the wheel or
DESCRIPTION OF THE INTERIOR
The interior is austere; the
marble walls are covered
with a grey patina built up
over the centuries.
It is divided into three aisles
that are bordered by two
rows of columns and pillars
surmounted by round
arches: it all adds up to
eight columns and a pillar
The columns show a great variety of styles,
especially in the capitals. In the capital of
the firs semi-column on the right aisle the
visit that Mary paid to St. Elizabeth is
carved: it is Lombard in structure.
The second column is
unique in the church in
so that is cross-shaped.
According to some it is a
real Gothic pillar.
The capitals, all different
between each other,
betray the fact that their
makers came from Pisa,
Lucca or from Emilia.
The presbytery dates back to the XII
century and is the work of hands from
Lucca. The capitals, of which the left
one is in the Corinthian style and the
right one is the result of mixed styles
and has big flowers inside the scrolls,
pre-announces the Gothic style.
In correspondence to the space between the
second and the third column, St.John's
portal in the right aisle and the entrance to
the Great Company and to the Baptistery in
the left one open up.
A) Main entrance
B) St. John’s Portal
C) Entrance to the Great Company
and to the Baptistery
1) Altar of the Crowned
2) Saint Ceccardo's Altar
3) Saint Ceccardo's Sarcophagus
4) The Cassanelle
5) The Crucifix of Divine
6) Our Lady of the People's Altar
7) The Altar of the Most Holy
Altar of the Crowned
Entering the cathedral through St.John's
portal, on the left it can be found the altar of
the "Crowned Martyrized Saints", more
commonly known as altar of the "Four
Martyrized Saints", patrons of the sculptors and of the marble workers. The high-
relief on the table above the altar was completed in 1869 by Pietro Lazzerini from
Carrara, and it represents the four saints at the moment of their martyrdom. In
fact the martyrs that are portrayed on the sculpture aren't four, but five. As the
legend goes, the four Romans who refused to carve Pagan gods were joined by a
"praetorian", who was so struck by the courage and serenity of the four condemned
to death penalty that he refused to take part in the execution and was therefore
killed as well.
At the sides of the altar there are two XVI century high relieves that portray
"Magdalen with a vase of perfumes" and "St.Lucy”.
Saint Ceccardo's Altar
Saint Ceccardo's altar is placed half way
down the right aisle. It is very simple, in
XVII century style.
The saint's beheaded body is kept inside a
marble niche under the altar table, and
it is protected behind a red banner and a
grate. In the upper part of the altar
there is a XVII century painting by an
unknown artist that represents
St.Ceccardo, patron of Carrara, was
beheaded because of his faith,according to
the tradition, in the year 600: it is said
that a water spring with healing powers
sprang out from the spot where his head
hit the ground.
The altar covers half of a XV century wall
painting that was discovered during the
restoration work in the aftermath of World
Saint Ceccardo's Sarcophagus
The sarcophagus, which used to hold the saint's body and that dates back to the
XVI century, is placed on the left of the altar.
It was carved into a single block of marble and it bears flowery decorations
carved into simple frames. The lid used to be connected to the urn by iron side-
joints whose remains can still be seen.
The tomb is born by two puttos which are probably XVII century.
Along the sarcophagus's lower edge one
can read, from left to right, the
inscription "HIC IACET CORPUS DIVI
CECARDI MARTIRIS EPI
LUNENSIS" which means "here lays the
body of St.Ceccardo martyr bishop of
Luni" .The right side bears the inscription
"HIC SANCTVS PASSVS EST P FIDE
XPI SVB ANO CCCCCC" which means
"here the Saint was martyrized for his
faith in Christ in the year 600".
"Le Cassanelle" are a masterpiece of
Gothic sculpture (XIV century), of Pisan
School and French influence.
They represent the Annunciation with the angel on the left who shows
a paper scroll with the latin inscription" AVE GRATIA PLENA"
and Maria on the right.
The two statues are made of Carrara white marble, but the basements,
from a more recent age, are made of ordinary marble.
According to the tradition the two figures are called " Le Cassanelle"
probably because this name is connected to Gassano, the village
where Bartolomeo Vasi, church artist and benefactor, was born. He
made the holy water basin near St.John's door.
The Crucifix of Divine Providence
The Crucifix of Divine
Providence is a wooden
fourteenth century cross,
whose style recalls the school
of Toscana and Umbria. It's
placed at the center of the
presbytery, and it hangs from
a finely wrought metal
Its shape is complex. The main figure,
Christus Patiens (in opposition to
Christus Triunphans from an earlier age),
is set in the middle, depicted with realism;
on the two arms of the cross you can find
the Virgin on the left and John, the
favourite disciple, on the right. On the
two arms of the cross, two grids with the
figures of the four evangelists including
the symbols referred to them: John with
the eagle and Luke with the ox on the
left; Mark with the lion and Matthew
with the angel and the New Testament
on the right.
At the top the figure of God, the Father,
with a pelican. This bird, according to a
well known symbology, feeds his breed
on his blood until it dies. This represents
Jesus Christ's sacrifice.
Our Lady of the People's Altar
Our Lady of the people's altar is placed in the left aisle; it's a XVI century
piece of work, simple yet elegant. Here, on the Lord's Table, inside a
marble frame placed between two marble columns, there is a painting
of the Madonna which dates back to the last century and portrays the
Mary holding the infant
Jesus with the keys of the
town in her hand: our
Lady of the People,
patron of Carrara.
Under the painting an engraved marble tablet
remembers one of the many miraculous
interventions by the Madonna to protect
The Altar of the Most Holy Annunciation
The Altar of the Most Holy Annunciation is placed at the left of
the main entrance, and it rests against the façade's inside
wall. It was executed around 1310 by Lapo, son of Maestro
Giroldo from Lugano. The present condition is the result of
various interventions and re-makings that were carried out in
different epochs. A beautiful frame that forms a vault resting
on two square columns with capitals, and which is decorated
with relieves, dates back to the XV century. Nowadays it is
quite blackened by candle smoke.
The Annunciation that can be admired nowadays dates back to
the Baroque age, with evident influences of Bernini school,
as so as the altar, in polychromatic marble marquetry.
At the centre of the altar, between the two statues, there is a
large chalk crucifix painted black, dating back to the XV
century. It is attributed to the sculptor from Carrara Pietro
Tacca. For this reason the altar is also known as "Altar of the
G. Paoletti, Il duomo di Carrara, Massa 1996
F. Buselli, S. Andrea Apostolo Duomo a Carrara, edited
by the Cassa di Risparmio di Carrara, 1972
We would like to thank Father Raffaello Piagentini,
parson of the cathedral, and Eleonora Grasso, student
at Accademia di Belle Arti in Carrara, for their kind
Davide Bichi 2010
II F 2011
(not in the photo)
(not in the photo)
Del Sarto Brandani
Riccardo Luca Tedeschi
Vatteroni Giacomo Zannoni Valentina Bianchi Sara Cardi Cigoli Martina Corsini
Michele Rossi Giacomo Bertolucci Girolamo Palazzolo Cristian Cordiviola Davide Perini