maandag 14 mei 2012

14. To cheat or not to cheat? That’s the question!

Look at this huge and beautiful church!

Italians are a special kind of people. Some say they are all charlatans. Others see them as the most creative and inventive people in the world. Crooks or artists? What is it in the end? This morning the eternal italian question popped up in my mind again when I entered the Santa Maria Presso San Satiro Church. The 14th task on my Milanese to-do list brought me here to come and see... a fraud!  A breathtaking fraud that is! The artist/crook/genious/swindler/mastermind/air-seller/magician (delete as appropriate) responsible for this miraculous example of church ingeniousness is the architect Donato Bramante. Somewhere during the 15th century the guy was asked to build a church in the center of Milan. He thinks about it, designs a fantastic building project and starts constructing the thing. Then, in the middle of his building activity the administration office of Milan decides out of the blue that the famous architect will not get the permission to build a 10 meter long apse like he had planned to. Instead, they grant him 80 centimers! A disaster! How on earth is Bramante supposed to create a big, impressive church with an apse of less than one meter??? Maybe the best would be just to abandon the whole project.
That’s indeed what Bramante would have done if he would have been a Belgian or a Dutch (or even worse! A rule-respecting Briton or Scandinavian). Than I wouldn’t have had to visit a beautiful church today but another one of the endless list of shops which populate (or is it shopulate?) Via Torino. But Bramante is an Italian and Italians have a solution for everything! Permission or not! That’s how it comes that 500 years after Milan’s bad administrative joke, Santa Maria Presso San Satiro has an imposing 10 meter long apse after all! But has she really?  That’s what my guide book asks me while I’m getting attentively closer. It’s only when I’m almost with my nose against the altar that I realize what I’m actually really looking at. A painting of an apse on a wall! The church isn’t half as big and impressive as she looks like. And her apse isn’t 10 meters long but only 80 centimers. Like the administration had asked. So even without having things his way, Bramante still managed to get what he wanted. Okay, he had to swindle a bit and cheat upon the amazed visitors. But wouldn’t you have done the same? Certo che si!

Huge if you don't get too close, of course.
Beautiful, always...

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