Tsafra Siew

Tsafra Siew, MA
Holy Mountains in Europe

The Holy Mountain of San Vivaldo, built in Tuscany in 1500, is one of the earliest sites of its kind in Italy. It consists of a complex of chapels representing the holy places of Jerusalem; its plan and topography mimic Jerusalem’s as well. In the chapels, events from the life and Passion of Christ are represented by terra cotta statues and frescoes. The visit to San Vivaldo was considered a substitute pilgrimage to Jerusalem, in which the pilgrim followed a certain route, going in and out of the chapels and meditating. Thus, in addition to being a representation of Jerusalem, the site also created a pilgrimage experience. This practice fits the cultural and scientific context of the period: San Vivaldo was built at a time when the science of cartography was rapidly developing, and many pilgrims returning from Jerusalem described their impressions and experiences in itineraries and maps. My research examines the relationship between the representation and the original, both visually and experientially. Due to the similarities between San Vivaldo and Jerusalem, I have chosen the methodology  of the history of cartography. I analyze elements found in earlier and contemporary maps of Jerusalem, in order to understand the knowledge people had of the city and the meaning of cartography in these representations. I then examine how this cartographical knowledge was integrated in the plan of San Vivaldo, and how, through the design and use of space, it influenced the pilgrimage experience there.

Study Trip to San Vivaldo
In October 2010 I travelled to Italy to examine some aspects of the site and meet with scholars working on San Vivaldo and related subjects. The aim of the visit was to reconstruct parts of the original plan of the site, find references to Florentine receptions of Jerusalem at the time and learn more about current research on San Vivaldo being undertaken in Italy today. Besides returning to San Vivaldo to examine the chapels, statues and frescoes from every possible angle, the visit included meetings with scholars from the fields of architecture, archaeology and history at the universities of Florence, Bologna and Rome; a day in the archive of the Franciscan monastery in Florence looking for records and a map of San Vivaldo from the sixteenth century; and two days in the library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence examining materials unavailable in Israel. In between, I visited several churches in Florence and Bologna, examining representations of Jerusalem contemporary to the creation of San Vivaldo.