Book Series Studies in Medieval and Early Renaissance Art History, vol. 57

The Façade Reliefs of Orvieto Cathedral

Anita Fiderer Moskowitz

  • Pages: 245 p.
  • Size:220 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:199 b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2009

  • ISBN: 978-1-905375-27-1
  • Hardback
  • Available


"The photographs alone will be a great help to both scholar and lay reader alike, and the highly readable text provides a very reliable up-to-date resume of the current scholarship on these extermely significant works of of late medieval, or, as some would say, early Renaissance, Italian sculpture." (Roger Tarr, in: The Art Book, Volume 17, Issue 4, Nov. 2010, p. 52)


This book presents in word and image the façade of Orvieto Cathedral, the reliefs of which are considered to be among the most beautiful and  powerful of the Trecento. The town of Orvieto, located half-way between Rome and Florence, played an important and strategic role in the political struggles in Italy during the latter part of the thirteenth century. Frequently the place of residence for popes and their Angevins allies, it became the seat of the Curia under Pope Nicholas IV, which brought wealth and economic growth to the community. Moreover, it enabled earlier plans for a new cathedral, initiated around 1285, to be finally realised. It was Pope Nicholas himself who laid the foundation stone of the new Duomo in 1290, and although building activity continued until well into the seventeenth century, most of the main portion of the building was complete by 1308, creating a dazzling and unique Gothic structure. The façade of the Cathedral in particular, is a masterpiece of design and relief sculpture. Its rich decorative carving is of outstanding quality and the innovative, compelling iconographic programme spreads across all four piers of the lower façade.


The corpus of photographs by David Finn, taken specially for this publication, shows the skill and narrative details of this vituoso display of relief carving, while the text by Anita Fiderer Moskowitz, Professor of Art History at the State University of  New York, Stony Brook, explains the building in the context of related Italian Gothic architecture, and discusses the problems and controversies regarding the design  and ornamentation of the façade as well as the puzzling question  as to its artistic attribution. The author also interprets the basic iconography of the sculptures and  provides full descriptions for the detail images.


200 pages, 180 illustrations, Bibliography