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The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Donatus

In Arezzo rises, imposing and majestic, the Cathedral dedicated to Saints Peter and Donato, an architectural work that alone tells centuries of history, art and religious devotion. This magnificent cathedral, built beginning in 1277 on the remains of an even older church, shows us in all its beauty the stylistic evolution from the original Romanesque to the dynamic Gothic, which occurred through the centuries between building and renovation work.
La Cattedrale - The Cathedral - Duomo di Arezzo

The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Donatus – known in the city simply as “the Cathedral” – is one of the must-see stops on a visit to the city of Arezzo. The building stands out in the Arezzo sky in all its iconic splendor , drawing the gaze of visitors as they approach the city.

This marvelous architectural work is built-as was often the case at the time-on the remains of a pre-existing church, which was exploited as the starting point of the works begun in 1277 at the behest of the then Bishop of the City (and military leader) Guglielmo degli Umbertini-the same general who led the Ghibelline army in the famous battle of Campaldino, recounted and fought by Dante Alighieri himself, where he met his death in 1289.

Although the work on the construction of the cathedral did not stop for good with the fall of William, it can certainly be said that its continuation was long and difficult: officially completed in 1511, the reality is that the work was far from being completed; in fact, we will have to wait until 1863 to be able to admire the final result.

Missable Stop in the Center of Arezzo

One of the must-see monuments in the beautiful city of Arezzo is the Cathedral, which is officially known as the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Donato. The Cathedral stands out against the clear sky of Arezzo in all its splendor and is confirmed as one of the most iconic places in the city.

Before the cathedral was built, another church existed. On its remains work on the Cathedral began: it was the year 1277 . The building project began at the behest of Bishop William. This figure was not only an ecclesiastical figure, but also a man of war. He was an active participant in the Battle of Campaldino in 1289 against the Guelphs. The bishop unfortunately lost his life in this battle.

Since William’s death, the building of the cathedral continued, albeit with big pauses. We can say that its construction was long and perilous: although officially the work was completed in 1511, in reality the cathedral was not yet finished.

It would have to wait until 1863 to see the final result.

The Cathedral and the different architectural styles

Being built over a period of time that lasted several centuries, the Cathedral is characterized by different architectural styles that mingle and intersect: starting with the Romanesque style-typical of the 13th century-the structure will evolve to the Gothic style, which will make the work lighter and slender compared to the massive appearance that distinguishes the 13th-century Romanesque.

The fact that the Cathedral was built over several centuries implied the fact that it was characterized by different styles. Starting from its construction in 1200 the initial predominance was that of the Romanesque style. Only later did it arrive at the Gothic style, which thus gave it a lighter and slimmer line, as opposed to the massive appearance of the Romanesque style.

In fact, in the 1300s this change in stylistic direction was decided upon, beginning with the building of naves with very high ceilings, which stand out and have a strong impact on visitors as soon as they enter the church, who will find themselves in an almost otherworldly environment, harking back to the heavens and divine magnificence.

Unmistakable Gothic Style of the Cathedral

The Gothic style entered the structure of this church from 1300 and brought, unmistakably, architectural elements that gave the effect of momentum to the whole. First and foremost are the three aisles, whose height stands out from the first impact as soon as you enter the church.

Another architectural element, which further emphasizes the adoption of the Gothic style in this art building, are the windows in the southern part of the church. These architectural elements are narrow in width and stretch out in height, creating an optical effect of momentum. In contrast, the exterior structure, compared to other Gothic-style churches, has more of a massive tendency reminiscent of the Romanesque.

Wanting to move forward through the centuries, we cannot forget the painted stained-glass windows made by the glassmaker Guillaume de Marcillat. His skills , in the 16th century, made him one of the excellences in stained-glass art: in Arezzo itself we admire a glimpse of his skill.

The works inside the church

We have briefly analyzed the riches and relevance from the architectural point of view, equally we must take into account the riches inside this church.

As we have already mentioned, it houses the remains of Bishop William, its formal founder. He is not the only one who rests in this sacred place in his eternal rest. Also lying in this cathedral is Pope Gregory X, who died in Arezzo: it was 1276.

Inside we will then find the tomb of Bishop Guido Tarlati. First elected bishop, he was later consecrated Pope in 1313. On the latter’s tomb we admire marble works whose attribution would date back to Giotto.

No less remarkable is the work preserved in the left aisle entitled Mary Magdalene and which was painted by Piero della Francesca: it was the year 1460. The large figure (190 x 105 cm) has a plastic style, which creates dynamism to the eye, in the use of complementary colors. It has been called a unicum by the painter, who is used instead to making cycles of frescoes.

A must-see

The Cathedral of Arezzo thus remains a jewel architecturally, artistically and spiritually. It saw, during its long construction and life, the city of Arezzo arise and develop around it. Today it remains its emblem and prominent religious monument, a visit to which is a must for anyone who happens to be in Arezzo.

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