The monumental sculpture, especially the pulpits, of the father and son duo, Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, have often been compared to ancient Roman and early Christian sarcophagi. Giovanni produced a pulpit with two accompanying lecterns for the Pisa Cathedral, which is just a few steps away from the Camposanto, a “holy field”, or cemetery, built around sacred soil from Golgotha which serves to house a huge collection of sarcophagi. Iconography, composition, relief style, and even the materiality of Giovanni’s Pisa pulpit is in part governed by, and connected to, these sarcophagi. This influence is especially highlighted by the Epistles lectern, which depicts a half-length Christ as the Man of Sorrows encircled about and raised aloft by two angels. This unusual depiction of the Man of Sorrows seems to be appropriating a long tradition of the imago clipeata, or visual apotheosis. Giovanni borrows this classical imagery and updates it to reflect contemporary Christianity. The presence of the classical clipeata on the lectern underlines the two natures of Christ, which is a main characteristic of the iconography of the Man of Sorrows. The lectern’s clipeata and the reference to sarcophagi establishes a connection to ritual, but in this case Christian ritual, namely the sermon and the Eucharist. The imagery embodies an affective focus on the love and humanity of Christ as the crux of salvation, a characteristic of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century preaching. The drapery and textile, which act as the frame of the clipeata on the lectern, allude to the tramezzo, or choir screen, and liturgical cloths found at the high altar—both are liturgical accessories that aid the viewer during the consecration of the Eucharist. Giovanni Pisano adopts this antique imagery and recontextualizes it in an early-fourteenth century Christian setting as it becomes a creative commentary on the liturgy, devotion, and significance of place at the cathedral of Pisa.



College and Department

Humanities; Comparative Arts and Letters



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Giovanni Pisano, Man of Sorrows, Pisa Cathedral, Camposanto, pulpit, lectern, epistles lectern, epistles, clipeus, clipeata, imago clipeata, apotheosis, liturgy, preaching, eucharist, sarcophagi, sarcophagus, textiles, tramezzo, angels, genii, materiality, stone, cornerstone