Natural Light, Religious Time and Mural Painting in Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Italy (c. 1250–1500)
Giosuè Fabiano, M.A.
On astronomically and liturgically significant dates, beams of light pierce the gloomy interiors of church buildings, highlighting sacred furnishings and isolating carefully selected figures in mural scenes. Late-medieval craftsmen deliberately adjusted the orientation, fenestration, and pictorial decoration of churches to accomplish such seemingly heavenly apparitions, embedding an astronomical and horological rationale into religious pictures and sacred space. This practice has left only sporadic traces in contemporary texts, and scholarly investigations so far have largely relied on fragmentary and anecdotal visual evidence. My project seeks to clarify how the observation of architectural lighting informed pictorial practices, ritual performances, and scientific investigations in the highly transformative period c. 1250–1500. In addition to a more coherent selection of visual examples, I will resort to a diversified range of sources – astronomical, optical, and meteorological treatises, textbooks on land survey, manuals for the computation of liturgical feasts – to expose the epistemic and devotional functions of daylighting within the built environment.