One of the many special things about touring the small towns in Le Marche is stumbling across something quite beautiful and totally unexpected. This happened to us twice yesterday when we visited Jesi and Cingoli in the northern part of the region.
Jesi is quite a large town, with a medieval and renaissance core and, like many towns in these parts, its town walls and gates still largely intact. It was Sunday so much was closed but it was very pleasant just to walk the streets. Jesi Cathedral, Cattedrale San Settimio Vescovo e Martire, stands on Palazzo Balleani. The exterior facade is C18 and we did not go inside as Mass was finishing. But we were astounded by the superb bronze doors at the entrance to the church, mentioned in our guide book. Researching a little I discover that the doors were commissioned to celebrate the second millennium of Christ and were installed in 2004. They tell the story of Christ in a series of panels surmounted by angels. Frustratingly, I could not find on the church website any information about the artist who made these doors but they are outstanding, and all the better for being unannounced.
Our second surprise was on visiting Cingoli, another hill town known as ‘il balconi delle Marche’ for its views over the whole region. When we went however the views were rather hazy and some local jokers had carefully scratched off the names of the places you could see from the explanatory board overlooking the view. So we had to focus on the town itself which was no sacrifice as it a lovely town which we must re-visit; we didn’t have time to do it justice.
As you would expect, there are several churches in Cingoli including the church of San Domenica which luckily for us was open in the period after mass. Outside the church is a plain and unadorned cruciform shape from the C14, but the interior was redesigned in the baroque style in the early C18. The redesign incorporates over the alter a remarkable picture of 1539 by Lorenzo Lotto, Madonna of the Rosary Enthroned with Saints. It has apparently been recently restored and it glows with colour, dominates the other, uninteresting C18 pictures in the church and sets the church alive.
The pictures shows the Madonna and child with sitting in a garden with a trellis behind them and with saints below them. St Dominic on the left is being presented with a rosary whilst to the right St Esuperantius, patron saint of Cingoli, is offering a model of the city for protection. Cherubs are scattering rose petals at the front. Above the Madonna are a series of miniature tondo representing the Mysteries of the Rosary. It is a picture which would grace any national collection, but how much better to see it in the building for which it was commissioned.
Lorenzo Lotto (c1480-1556) was born in Venice, an almost exact contemporary of Titian. Little is known of his early life, or where he learnt his skills, but it seemed he decided not to stay in Venice but to travel and work elsewhere and he worked extensively in Le Marche and Ancona, as well as Treviso, Bergamo and Rome. He finally retired from painting and became a lay brother at Loreto where he died. So although usually considered a Venetian painter, he could as much be considered a painter of the Marches.