CLOSED FOR THE EARTHQUAKE of 30 October 2016
The original church of S. Agostino, built on the so-called “Oratorio di San Giorgio” was devoted to San Nicola da Tolentino because of the presence of his remains. The famous thaumaturge was born in 1245 in Sant’Angelo in Pontano and died in 1305 in Tolentino Remembered for his humility, his goodness and his numerous miracles, he is venerated all over the world. Portal stands out from the façade coated with Istria stones. The preciousness of its late Gothic style blends with spatial effects of Early Renaissance. Complex was built between 1432 and 1435 on commission of the leader and soldier of fortune, Nicolò Mauruzi called “Il Tolentino” and it is a work of the Florentine sculptor Nanni di Bartolo called Il Rosso. Noteworthy is the group of statues overwhelming the main entrance representing S. Giorgio while killing the dragon and the Vergine con il Bambino among Sant’Agostino and San Nicola. The new bronze portal was realized on the occasion of the VII centennial of the death of San Nicola in 2005 by Padre Stefano Pigini from Castelfidardo. The Basilica has a sole aisle with golden wood panelled ceiling dating back to the first half of XVII century. In the first chapel at the right side of the portal it is remarkable the “Visione di Sant’Anna” of Guercino, 1640. Inside chapels, between the most important works, of particular value are the painting of San Tommaso da Villanova attributed to Giuseppe Ghezzi and the “Natività” a work of Domenico Malpiedi. Excellent is the Cappella del Sacramento (Chapel of the Blesses Sacrament), a work of the Tolentino native artist, Francesco Ferranti. The Cappella delle Sante Braccia, (chapel of the Holy Arms) which keeps several objects owned by San Nicola and reliquaries, is very rich and suggestive. The body of the Saint is kept in the crypt.
The Cappellone – The most artistic valuable element in the complex of Basilica di San Nicola is the so-called Cappellone, probably in origin Sala Capitolare, that represents one of the most beautiful and colour-rich cycles of Italian frescoes of the first half of the XIV century, attributed to Pietro da Rimini, a famous exponent of the Giotto’s Rimini School. In the triangular areas of the vault the four Evangelists and the four Doctors of the Church are represented. In the lunette, artist has depicted scenes from the life of the Blessed Virgin. The middle cycle of frescoes contain scenes from the life of Christ, while in the lower part there are some moments of the life of San Nicola and some of his miracles. In the centre of the Cappellone there is a precious stone polychrome statue supported by a marble sarcophagus under which the body of San Nicola had been buried. Recent researches attributes both works, dating back to the second half of the XV century, to the Florentine sculptor Niccolò di Giovanni. This magnificent masterpiece, still today strikes for its stylistic and compositional uniformity. It is impressive for richness of colours, its figures, the accuracy that characterizes each painted scene, the careful description of environment, costumes, behaving and for the strong feelings shown by every expressive face.
The Chiostro (Cloister) – The monumental XIV century cloister, is attributed to the work of the local guild of stone-cutters, masons and carpenters. The portico is characterized by pillars whose capitals are decorated with vegetable pattern, except for those at the corners which represent human figures that, according to tradition, are the client’s portraits. Pillars are made in brickwork and are all different one from the other for their shape: lobed, cylindrical, polyhedric. Refined and elegant, in the southern side of the cloister, is the brickwork portal that leads to the old refectory. Three wings of the cloister are still complete, the fourth, parallel to the church, was moved back during the first years of the XVII century to give space to five chapels built in the right side of the Basilica. In the corner on the Cappellone side, there is a well, wanted by SanNicola and, always on the same side but at the end, there is the Oratorio di San Nicola (Oratory of San Nicola) where the Saint used to live and where he died.