Hexagon. Reliquiaries (18th-19th century). Nicola De Maria, New Jerusalem (2015)

The artist from Campania interprets in an original way the theme of the New Jerusalem, conceived as the place of feast, joy and of communion. Sancta Sanctorum is the hexagonal room located beneath the main altar. After being a depository for many years, from 2015 this space has come to life again. This is due to the colours used by the artist, who was part of that extraordinary group called Transavantgarde (comprising in fact renowned artists working autonomously from one another).
Built in the first half of the 19th century, the Sancta Sanctorum has the shape of a hexagon, with a niche at each side. The one located in front of the entrance contains a reliquary of the Cross. Evidence for the sacredness of the place are the numerous reliquaries at the sides, that keep the saints’ bones, symbol of the virtues of those who lived the Gospel, of their sanctity called upon to spread throughout the city and to fecundate the life of its inhabitants.
A series of columns, in Doric style, supports a small dome that rests on a moulded frame, situated on a frieze.
Nicola De Maria intervenes in this small space, drenched with significance, by painting the dome with a riot of colours: deep blue, radiant reddish orange, shining yellow and lastly a bright green. Whilst the first three colours are enclosed within segments that converge towards the centre, creating an irresistible circular movement, the green fragment seems to interrupt it – as if to indicate a moment of interruption, where a new beginning originates. The frieze is painted with a turquoise blue, quilted with some stars and with the alpha and omega symbols, which allude to Christ as being the origin and end of the Universe.
In Christian architecture, the dome is traditionally a cosmic symbol that represents the Garden of Eden, the ‘Paradeisos’ of the origins, where man lives a harmonious relationship with God. Here, instead, the dome is the city that transforms everything.
Everything conveys joy, from the silver’s chromatic reverbs to the dome’s brilliant colours.
It’s as if Nicola De Maria were saying to us that the joy of the celestial city is founded on the victims’ faith. As if the world’s anguish embodied by the martyrs, were here transformed in song and praise. A current issue, more than ever. On the lintel of the door situated on the left hand side of the altar, De Maria has also painted the Name of Jesus.
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