In 1138 a painter named Guglielmo, of whom we do not know other works, signed the painted cross which from the beginning of the XVII century is placed in the chapel placed at the head of the left nave of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta of Sarzana.
According to the authoritative testimony of Ippolito Landinelli, who first read and transcribed the inscription above the head of the Christ, the cross comes from the parish chiesa di Sant’Andrea, where he qualified the iconostasis that separated the nave from the area reserved for the clergy. It is formed by a wooden chestnut support on which is applied a linen cloth destined to receive the preparatory drawing, clearly legible in the radiographic site, and then the color. The back of the cross was protected and qualified by a white draft of which significant traces remain.
The croce di Sarzana, also called the Croce di Mastro Guglielmo, is closely linked to a group of Lucchese crosses and Lucchese had to be (by training, if not by birth) its author, who proudly declares to be the author of the metra ( neutral plural of metron; it is a Greekism) that accompany the episodes depicted on the board and inspired by the Passion.
At the beginning of the fourteenth century, the figure of the Christ was partially repainted, after applying a new canvas and a new preparatory layer; probably it was necessary to proceed with this repainting due to the damages suffered by the pictorial film in correspondence of the insertion of the horizontal axes in the vertical body, one of the weak points, from the static point of view, of the carpentry of the cross, as it was possible to verify in the course of the long and complex restoration work carried out between 1991 and 1998 at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence.
Text Piero Donati
From 2018 it is usable – thanks to the support of the Carispezia Foundation – a multimedia totem that allows, through ad hoc images and texts, to admire in detail the most ancient example of a painted and dated cross, to understand its religious significance and appreciate its historical relevance and artistic value.
The consultation of the new totem also allows to acquire general information also on the other artistic treasures kept by the Cathedral and on the art heritage preserved in the nearby Diocesan Museum.