Teodolinda’s Chapel

April 14, 2015 / Art & Archaeology

Great news, another masterpiece is restored! In this case saved, actually. The fresco was detaching in multiple points from the wall and risked simply flaking off, to be lost forever. Fortunately, however, this was caught in time and it is now visible for all to see once again.

So what is it? The fresco cycle in question was done by the Zavattari artist family (we could write a note on them alone…) in the 15th century, and is located in the Chapel of Theodelinda, in the Duomo of Monza (another potential note).


Teodolinda, as she is known in Italian, was the fascinating 6th century Lombard queen (now she‘s definitely note-worthy!) who took up summer residence in Monza where she built a basilica dedicated to St.John the Baptist which was to eventually become the Gothic Marvel that is the current Duomo.


And in case we didn’t have enough potential notes already lined up by this point, her newly restored chapel in the Duomo holds the Iron Crown, which not only became the crown of the Kings of Italy, but which does double duty as a reliquary given that within it is a metal band supposedly made from one of the nails of the True Cross.


Anyhow, the cycle shows 45 scenes from her life, those of her husbands (yes, two!), her political “career”, and other salient moments related to her Lombard rule. Art historians feel Duke Visconti of Milan commissioned the artwork for the wedding of his daughter to Francesco Sforza, wanting to draw parallels between his daughter and Teodolinda 800 years earlier. What we know for sure is that the entire cycle is done in an incredible mix of fresco, dry paint, relief work, and gold foil, which tend to be elements usually used in miniatures, except in this case they’re applied over the entire cupola of a chapel.

All we can say is “Bravi” on the restoration!

(And many thanks to Francescogb for the image of the Duomo, CC BY-SA 3.0.)





by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

6 Responses to “Teodolinda’s Chapel”

  1. What a feast for the eyes! Interestingly, first photo of her seems to show her with 3 hands, probably the 3rd hand is the woman behind her holding up her forearm in order to have the ring put on her finger. Wonder why she needed help?

    • I wondered that too. Perhaps she was Teodolinda’s mother giving the bride away?

  2. David Barneby

    This is a wedding , the Third hand is that of her father , ” Who Giveth This Woman In Marrage ” and the placing of the ring . Thanks G B Bernardini , these are lovely frescos , beautifully painted , the Zavattari family were fine artists , beautiful compositions and colours .

  3. Lina Falcone

    These are beautiful frescos, thank for them. Grazie mille.


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