The Diocesan Museum of Velletri is located in the ex seminary, built around the year 1600, the oldest wing of the architectonic complex part of St. Clement's cathedral. All the works here exhibited come mainly from the city churches and became part of the collection at the end of the 19th century, when the seat of the Museum was the old capitular room destroyed during the Second World War. During the conflict, the collection was safely placed in the Vatican. After the war, St. Clement's Cathedral was rebuilt and the collection, consisting in miniatures, paraments, gold wares, and paintings that were catalogued for the first time, found a new seat in two rooms in the right aisle of the church. In the following years, the Museum was moved from one room to another and, after 1983, when the Croce Veliterna and other important gold wares and paintings were stolen, it was closed for safety measures. A project was launched to reorganize the collection; many paintings on wood were restored and the ex seminary was renovated thus providing an up-to-date and safer exhibition area. Today the Museum witnesses the past greatness of the Diocese and shows again the precious Croce Veliterna, rescued by the Carabinieri and returned to the Bishop of Velletri in 1998, just before the re-opening of the new seat, on January 22nd 2000.
The pieces of the collection, dated from the 11th to the 19th Century, are the result of a valuable artistic work that witnesses the importance of Velletri in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, as well as the priority role of its Diocese (thirteen Bishops of Velletri became Popes). The works follow a chronological order, which integrates with the required preservation rules. Therefore, in the first two rooms paraments and holy vessels are exhibited, whereas the third and fourth rooms house paintings on wood, and the largest room the big altar paintings.
The bookshop and the ticket desk are at the ground floor of the ex seminary. In this room you can see through a glass the 15th century cemetery that was in the front of the cathedral wall. By the elevator or the stairs you can arrive to the first floor of the building.
The tour of the collection of the Museum is on a single floor, the first
and the main one.
Starting from a large entrance you start the visit from a hall, where
you can see the big fresco of the Crucifixion from the school
of Antoniazzo Romano. it was, at the origin, in the church of Santa
Room I houses works dated 12th - 16th Century: right in the middle, in
a glass showcase the famous Croce Veliterna
is displayed, the most
valuable piece of the Museum. It consists of a gold reliquary cross, made
in Sicily in the first half of the 12th Century, which was given as a gift
to the Cathedral in 1254 by Rainaldo of the Lords of Ienne, Bishop
of Velletri, who became Pope Alexander IV. The main face is made
precious by filigree, pearls and old pieces of enamel-ware representing
Christ, the Virgin Mary and some figures of Saints; on the reverse side
we can admire filigreed arabesques, precious stones, pearls
and five enamelled medallions. The foot, in gilded silver, is decorated
with winged geniuses.
Works between 1600 and 1900 are displayed in Room II, as the Reliquary
Bust of Saint Clement
I , the Pope who was the first, according
to tradition, to preach in Velletri in the 1st Century A.D. The Bust
was commissioned to Giuliano Finelli, one of Gianlorenzo
Bernini's assistant, by Cardinal Domenico Ginnasi for the new Chapel
of the Cathedral dedicated to the Holy Protectors of the town, and it is made
in gilded and silvered brass and copper. Every November 23th
the bust is still exhibited on the high altar of the Cathedral.
The Madonna with Child and two Angels, painted by Gentile
da Fabriano, is located in the third Room: in 1633 it was donated
to the church of Saint Apollonia in Velletri by the church
of Saints Cosma and Damiano in Rome, and it stayed there
until 1913 when entered the Diocese collection.
It belongs to the artist's Roman period.
Thanks to the 1912 restoration, the cuspidate shape was recovered
and after removing the old frame, pillow and angels
come me to light.
In Room IV we can see two paintings by Antoniazzo Romano, who
worked in Rome since 1464, and the Transport of the Holy House
by Giovan Battista Rositi. The Virgin and Child
Romano comes from the altar of St. Eleutery, in the crypt
of the Cathedral, and it depicts the Virgin appearing in a windowsill
on which she puts the Child who gives a blessing with his right hand
and keeps the globe in his left hand.
The paintings of the collection, which can be dated between the 17th
and the 19th Century, are all in Room V, the last to be seen. Here someone
can also see The Virgin of the Rosary with the Saints Dominic, Catherine
of Siena and John the Baptist
, an altar-piece by Sebastiano Conca
who worked in Rome after a long stay in Francesco Solimena's Neapolitan
workshop. The painting was kept in the Cathedral until 1962, when the Chapel
changed its consecration. In this room there is also the Pardon of Assisi
from Frans Van De Kasteele. It was made in Rome, and on the painting
you can read the signature of the artist and the date of its realization: 1595.
The Diocesan Museum also offers:
Guided tours of the Museum and the Cathedral of St. Clement;
"Museo in Musica"- a concert season;
Meetings and workshops organization.