Ark of Light is the name of the extraordinarily important museum complex that brings together the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, the Bishop’s Palace and at the Cathedral of Arezzo.
On top of San Pietro hill, the Bishop’s Palace constitutes, with the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Donato, a priceless complex of art and faith. To this day the residence of the Bishop of Arezzo, Cortona and Sansepolcro, the elegant palace commissioned by Bishop Guglielmino degli Ubertini, who moved here in 1256, hosts one of Arezzo’s most valuable and important museums: the MUDAS, Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art.
Opposite the Bishop’s Palace stood the Church of St. Peter Major, elevated in the early 13th century to urban Cathedral despite its modest size, but it was thanks to the bequest of Pope Blessed Gregory X – who died in Arezzo in 1276 on his return from the Council of Lyon – that the building of the new, much larger and more solemn Cathedral started.
Dating back to the 15th century is the elegant corridor connecting the Bishop’s palace with the Cathedral, by the Florentine artist Bartolomeo della Gatta, while at the end of the 16th century Teofilo Torri painted the lively cycles of frescoes on the main floor.
The MUDAS Museum’s collection consists of valuable sacred artworks from the vast territory of the Diocese of Arezzo. Notable 20th-century art historians such as Roberto Longhi, Mario Salmi, Anna Maria Maetzke, and Daniela Galoppi have contributed to their gathering and display.
The museum is now structured in five rooms, where you can admire precious Medieval wooden crucifixes from the most ancient Cathedral; valuable illuminated manuscripts, paintings on wood and frescoes from the 14th and 15th centuries by Andrea di Nerio, Spinello Aretino and Bartolomeo della Gatta, to name just a few, as well as a monumental terracotta sculpture by Bernardo Rossellino.
We remember the 16th century thanks to processional banners and predellas by the likes of Giorgio Vasari and Luca Signorelli. Among the liturgical objects the so-called Peace of Siena stands out for its refinement – an artwork of Franco-Flemish manufacture from the early fifteenth century in gold, enamel, precious stones and pearls, donated by Pope Pius II to the Cathedral of Siena, which in turn gave it to the Cathedral of Arezzo in 1799.
The tour continues to the main floor of the Bishop’s Palace, whose rooms were frescoed in the early seventeenth century by the painter Teofilo Torri with scenes from the Old and New Testaments and where it is possible to admire an exceptional art gallery covering three centuries, from the 16th to the 19th.
Finally, it is worth mentioning the so-called Room of the Popes, intended to house popes visiting Arezzo, which in recent decades has hosted John Paul II and Benedict XVI, decorated with neoclassical-style frescoes dating back to 1794 by Pietro Benvenuti.
To visit the Ark of Light complex is to live a unique experience, where Art and Faith are inextricably linked to the millennial History of the city of Arezzo.
The Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art and the Bishop’s Palace
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