Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Cathedral at Monza: Centerpoint of the Langobard period

Monza Cathedral, Monza Brianza, Lombardy, Italy, Europe

Pietro Pecco

The Duomo of Monza often known in English as Monza Cathedral is the main religious building of Monza, near Milan, in northern Italy. Unlike most duomos it is not in fact a cathedral, as Monza has always been part of the Diocese of Milan, but is in the charge of an archpriest who has the right to certain episcopal vestments including the mitre and the ring.


Theodelinda - Queen of the Lombards
iron crown

The val padana, for those who don't know, is very flat. Everything looks flat from the window of a plane, even mountains are squashed and foreshortened, but the val padana doesn't leave any room for topographical speculation, it is flat and fields and swept with the swirling lines of tributaries and tractor trails and everything is in mud coloured, from a pale sandiness to a rich brown, at least in this season and from this plane.

Monza begins with Theodelinda, lombard queen on a mission: to find somewhere breezy to spend the long hot sunmmers in the val Padana. And to build, of course, a nice church, standard practice for the 8th century. She dedicated the church to John the Baptist, who of course was beheaded, or as it's usually put in Italian, decollato a word that always make me look twice as it means 'un-necked', but also, in modern parlance, 'take-off' as in a plane. Surely the patron saint of airports, then? Oh I'm not going to explain that here it is much too hot.


The Iron Crown
Royal Regalia: The Iron Crown of Lombardy

It may not look like much compared to some others, but the Iron Crown of Lombardy is one of the most significant symbols of monarchy in western Christendom. It is called the “Iron Crown” because of a small, narrow strip of iron that circles the interior of the piece. What is significant about this is that, according to tradition, this circle of iron was beaten out from one of the nails used at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. That is where the story of the Iron Crown begins. 

As with most of the relics association with Christ and the crucifixion the nail was said to have been found by St Helena and given to her son the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (the first Roman Emperor to be a Christian) who, so the story goes, later sent it to the Queen of the Lombards who were converted to Christianity. At some point the nail was incorporated into a crown though no one is sure exactly when. Some say Emperor Charlemagne was crowned King of the Lombards using the Iron Crown while others maintained it was not made until after his time. Kept in the Cathedral of Monza, near Milan, it was the most sacred and well known symbol of the Kingdom of the Lombards which grew up following the fall of Rome.



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