corso Canalgrande, 75 - Modena - MO - 41121
Timetable:You can visit the church on request, please call 059/222450. Services: Sunday at 11,00 am
Ownership: Parrocchia di San Biagio (Modena)
In the 1600's, in the ambitious intention of creating the most important sacred building in Modena, the Theatines could rely on the support of the Estensi court and used such architects and sculptors as Bartolomeo Avanzini or Tommaso Loraghi who plied their trade for the Estensi court. This was particularly the case for the two new buildings that Francesco I was having built: the Palazzo Ducale of Modena and the Delizia of Sassuolo.
The single wide, longitudinal nave of the church is lined with chapels where the Theatine fathers celebrated mass simultaneously. The church follows the general plan used in the Theatine church of S. Andrea della Valle in Rome.
The nave, cupola, transept and apse of the church were decorated with frescos but at different times.
The presbytery and choir was destroyed, a large portion of the frescos in the apse - that Sigismondo Caula painted for the Theatines - and all those in the cupola were irreparably damaged by bombing on May 13, 1944. The central portion of the cupola depicts the glory of St. Vincent being carried by angels up toward the Trinity. The pendentives show the virtue of the Theatine order.
The recent cleaning of the frescoed surface of the vault and walls have given new brilliance to the magnificent ornamental complex of the broad central nave. The decorations on the walls are divided into two broad horizontal strips by a sharply overhanging stucco frame designed for the Theatines around the mid 1600's by the Roman architect Bartolomeo Avanzini who was called to Modena by Duke Francesco I and named court architect in 1634.
The stucco decorations are similar to the plastic décor of the stuccoed Apartment in the Palazzo Ducale in Sassuolo and, indeed, they were performed by the same group. This attests to the privileged relationship linking the Estensi lords with the Theatines.
Above the arches that provide access to the chapels, pairs of angels in strong relief enliven the walls with their graceful gestures and flowing robes.
In the dimly lit chapels, illuminated only by the light reflected in from the broad nave, a precious touch of colour is derived from the painted canvases, frescos and polychrome marbles that have been given renewed visibility.
Fruit of the cooperation between the Roman architect Bartolomeo Avanzini and Lombard stonecutter Tommaso Loraghi, aided by the sculptor Giovanni Lazzoni from Carrara, the tabernacle and main altar complex are the most spectacular examples of works commissioned for the Theatine church by the Estensi. Admired by contemporaries for the splendour and wealth of the marble and for the skilled architecture, the tabernacle was destined to be one of those artistic vehicles Francesco I-with an artistic policy calibrated against Rome and the great capitals of Europe-used to advance his image as "prince and hero of Christianity".
The most noteworthy statues are not those somewhat repetitive miniatures at the base of the tambour of the tabernacle-temple depicting the Savior and Theatine saints, but rather those on the sides of the altar: a blessed soul and a saint, princes of virtue in the service of the church and perennial glory of their caste. Like Isabella, the mother of Francesco I, the blessed Amedeo belonged to the houses of Savoia and San Contardo, co-protectors of Modena, and was an Estensi.
How to get there
For disabled people: main entrance with one 10 cm step, secondary entrance (from Via Emilia) has two 13 cm high steps.