Cameos of the Popes in Notre Dame de Paris

Complete collections representing the Popes since St. Peter up to our days are extremely rare. Everyone knows one of the medallions of the St. Paul's outside-the-walls Basilica in Rome. Very little one of 268 cameos of the treasure of the Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris.

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On the night of 15-16 July 1823, a fire destroyed the Roman basilica and greatly strained series of medallions began in the fifth century by the Léon the great Pope and continued by Salvatore Monosilo at the request of Pope Benedict XIV. During the restoration, the Pope Pius IX asked artists 'Studio Vaticano' to 255 mosaic medallions.

This reconstruction coincided with the discoveries of the ancient sites of Rome, as well as with the difficulties of the Pope due to the advance of Italian unity which threatened its States. In the Catholic States of the German empire and France, all current of sympathy surrounded the Holy See. The collection of cameos of Notre Dame is probably one of the signs. At this time also, the cameos of Torre of Greco were in great vogue in the German empire.

On their origin, the archives of the chapter of the Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris, in their current state, only give few specifics. They were all carved in the workshops of Torre of Greco, their undisputed capital. They were released to the chapter in 1887 by a rich Bavarian donor, which we know the reason for his gesture. The research in this sense being impossible, we must settle this tradition transmitted by the Canon Auzas. The necessary legal authority in this time of bankruptcy regime having been given, the chapter deliberates on May 20, 1888: It has proposed and accepted to the cameos of the Popes in the Chapter Hall. It is the only historical document that we could get to the chapter.

These cameos are gems of great finesse. The artists of the Greco Torre, as they are several depending on what reveals the Bill, gave each of the popes of the gestures varied, hieratic probably, but alive. The poses are different, unconnected with the character of each Pope, but less conventional than the Roman medallions. The clothes are different: there is the screed or camail, the tiara with one, two or three crowns, the Leviticus mitre, the simple CAP or the hood. The movements are often expressive: each bless, others are in meditation before the crucifix. some profile, or from the front, others sitting or standing as Pius VI in a move of firmness or moving as Innocent XII.

Cameos of the last 10 popes, of Léon XIII to Benedict XVI, come to be made (September 2008) by master Goudji and master Pierre red-Pullon, on the 120th anniversary of the collection. They are like the previous ones, finely carved on shell, and their setting is silver.

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