Federico II e Fossanova. Dalle ceneri di una tradizione storiografica alla genesi di una nuova riflessione

Author: Manuela Gianandrea

Frederick II and Fossanova. From the Ashes of a Historiographic Tradition to the Genesis of a New Reflection

This paper has been largely inspired by the text of Fossanova e Castel del Monte, a fundamental work by Antonio Cadei presented in 1978 at the international conference Federico II e l’arte del Duecento italiano.
It is our aim to focus on the decoration of the main door of the abbey church of Fossanova, the once powerful and widely known Cistercian foundation located some 100 km south of Rome. For a long time now, scholars agreed upon an attribution of the door frame to the 1220s. Moreover, a late 18th-century tradition alleged that the door was once provided with an epigraph, whose reported text has been interpreted – till recently – as an evidence for a direct patronage of emperor Frederick II. Our point, here, is to argue – on the basis of a full analysis of the available sources on the history and restorations of the abbey – that such an inscription, very likely, has never existed.
The second part of this study starts with some typological and stylistic remarks on the capitals decorating the door frame and the main front of the abbey church. Typology and style of the capitals can lead us to point out that the abbey church was actually brought to completion in the 1240s or 1250s. The prominent features of this late phase of the building decoration clearly show how some artistic influences from southern Italy began to permeate the Patrimonium Petri. This evidence does not imply a direct intervention of Frederick. Thus far, we suggest a critical re-consideration, either of the current chronology of the building phases in the aftermath of the 1208 consecration, or of the purported involvement of the German sovereign as a patron at Fossanova.