The Via Angelica (23)
The Via Angelica is one of the oldest and most evocative sites of San Miniato. This is an ancient route running along the southern wall of the church of Santi Iacopo e Lucia, once used by the country people when they wanted to reach the town centre. Opening off this ancient passage are three areas beneath the church with lavish fresco decorations ranging in date from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Entering the passage from the side overlooking the town centre ,after a few metres we come to the first area, corresponding to the crossing of the crypt. Visible here are the remains of frescoes on two pilasters at the sides showing Saint Peter and an Annunciation, as well as a ceiling fresco portraying the Four Evangelists recently attributed to Jacopo di Cione, an artist active in San Miniato in the fourteenth century. Leaving this first area, we continue down the path to reach the second site, the Oratorio di Sant'Urbano,which was the ancient meeting place for the affiliates of the Company of Sant'Urbano, also known as the "Compagnia della frusta"or scourge. The importance of the chapel is underscored by the richness of the pictorial decorations covering the walls and the cross vault, executed in different periods. In the sails of the cross vault, executed in different periods. In the sails of the cross vault of the first bay are four Allegories of the Coming of Christ, illustrating episodes from the Golden Legend by Jacopo da Varagine; in the vault of the second bay are four Dominican Saints :Saint Peter the Martyr, Saint Dominic, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Blessed Ambrose Sansedoni of Siena; finally, portrayed in the third bay are other Dominican Saints, among whom we can identify Saint Urban. Stretching along the side walls is an eighteenth-century cycle illustrating the Way of the Cross, beneath which the original fourteenth-century decoration was discovered in the course of the most recent restoration .This comprises fragments of a Universal Judgement in the central bay, and in the first bay the image of Saint Urban holding up the image of Saints Cosmas and Damian rare iconographic evidence of the translation of the heads from the sancta sanctorum to San Giovanni in Laterano. In the lunettes of the upper order the eighteenth century decoration, executed a few decades after the cycle of the Way of the Cross, has been preserved. Leaving the Oratory, and descending further we come to the third and last area, the chapel of Saint Peter the Martyr. Unfortunately, over the centuries this has been subject to alteration that have led to the loss of much of the original decoration covering the entire chapel: what remains are portions of a monochrome fresco cycle dating to the fourteenth century illustrating the Passion of Christ. On a pilaster on the north side is a fragment of the wall decorations portraying an image of Saint Dominic set within a Gothic tabernacle, attributed to the Maestro del Trasporto di San Jacopo, who also painted a fresco in the confraternity of the Church of Santi Jacopo e Lucia. In the sails of the cross vault are half-figures of the Four Evangelists, the execution of which dates to a later period.