Artists, artisans and craftsmen

At the Mdina cathedral in the early sixteenth century.

In the early decades of the sixteenth century the Mdina Cathedral was being given a face-lift. Gian Francesco Abela records how the roof of the nave was raised by the building of a clerestory pierced by windows to give the church-interior a lighter atmosphere and how the new wooden ceiling was decorated with engravings, paintings with Pauline and biblical themes, and florid arabesques in gold. He also records four inscriptions which he could still read, more than a century after the works were executed. Two of these recorded how the work was commenced in June 1520 when the Jurati were Petro Guevara, Martin Ingomes, Petro Stunica, and Manfred Caxaro, the Economo being Alvaro Casseres. The other two related how the work was completed under Jurati Raineli Calavà, Nicola Saguna and Antonio Bonello, who was also the Economo; the painter who depicted the ceiling was Alexander Patavinus Civis Syracusanus. [1]

This skeletal information can, by and large, be substantiated in all its details from the original mandati which are still extant at the Cathedral Museum Archives. [2] But much else besides emerges from a thorough reading of these documents which give a fuller picture of what was happening. The mandati were authorisations by competent authorities, such as the Jurati or cathedral treasurer, to procurators for payments to individuals stating the amount and the reason for the payment; a receipt by the payee is appended in most cases. One can thus confirm, for example, who the Jurati and the Economo were in the year when Patavinus started and finished the work. The object of this paper is to shed some light on the activities of a number of artists, artisans and craftsmen who worked for the cathedral in the period c.1515-c.1540, as revealed in the mandati documents.

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Stanley Fiorini - Melita Historica

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