Monday, January 14, 2008

Brancaccio Chapel

Explusion from the Garden of Eden
This morning we called around 10am for a Noon appointment to see the Brancacci Chapel – appointments are required. The visit began with a ½ hour film and then the “allowed” 15 minutes in the actual chapel. Being low season, everything was pretty empty and there wasn’t much pressure to hurry through as there might be in high season. I think there were two other people watching the film with us and one other person who came in to view the chapel.

Overall, we really liked the chapel and the whole experience. Tickets are 4 Euro a person. Whoever is running the show there has figured out how to provide a good experience. The film alone was really interesting; it used animation interwoven with street footage, music, narration and detailed photos of the frescoes in various phases of analysis and restoration to walk you through the stories presented and their context through the centuries. When we saw the actual frescoed chapel, we could rattle off the characters and the meanings of this or that. It was a rich experience (from the bookstore, to multimedia, to the actual viewing) which would be nice to see more museums finding ways to emulate.

There's a growing trend toward charging admission in many of the major duomos. And with this, much more activity around conserving and restoring their collections, the installation of museum quality lighting for the works and/or architecture, providing docents, and in some cases producing excellent interpretive installations. There's a delicate balance to strike between being a sanctuary for people coming for a moment of peace, and for lack of a better word, being a museum. Some do it very well.

So what is the Brancaccio Chapel? It is a small side chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine. The chapel’s decoration was commissioned by the Brancacci and was painted by Masaccio (1401-1428). The chapel’s frescoes and other works by him were highly regarded for the elements of humanism they introduced which in turn became inspiration for other masterworks such as Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel. In the Brancacci Chapel, the stories revolve largely around the life of St. Peter.

Official Chapel hours can be found here on the Comune di Firenze site for the Cappella Brancacci’s web site including a phone number to call for reservations.

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