Fresco cycle in the tomb chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza (1430-47)
by Franceschino, Gregorio, and Giovanni ZAVATTARI

An extensive picture cycle narrating the life and deeds of the Langobard (Lombard) queen Theodolinda of Bavaria (c. 568-c. 625) adorns the walls of the north choir chapel, her burial place, in the cathedral of Monza. The Langobard queen was venerated as the founder of the cathedral, which dates back to 595. The rebuilding of the cathedral choir was undertaken at the end of the fourteenth century, and the work was completed at the latest by 1417.

According to a painted inscription in Latin on wall of the northern side chapel of the choir, the frescoes on the walls above the inscription must have been completed by 1444, and the ornamentation, except for the paintings in the vaulting, was made by the Zavattari. Confirming the statement in the Latin inscription, there exists a contract concluded between the cathedral chapter and the three painters Franceschino, Gregorio, and Giovanni Zavattari on March 25, 1445. This contract refers to the half of the painting still to be done. Consequently, it can be assumed that the painting of the chapel must have been begun around 1430-33 and it was completed around 1447.

It is generally accepted that the chapel paintings were executed by three members of the Zavattari family, Frenceschino and his two sons Gregorio and Giovanni who belonged to their father's workshop. Any distinction between the contributions of the three painters is problematic. The uniformity of the cycle, both in terms of composition and motifs, suggests that Franceschino was responsible for setting its style.

The the coats of arms found in the frescoes make it clear that the duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti (reigned 1412-1447) was involved in the painting of the chapel. His interest in the chapel can be explained by the fact that this was the burial place of the only royal family to have come from Lombardy. The Visconti, as dukes of Milan, attempted to gain legitimacy as successors of the Lombard royal house.

The cycle of paintings narrates the legend of Theodolinda, daughter of Garibald, the duke of Bavaria, who became the wife of the Langobard king Authari in 590. The Lombards or Langobards (Italian Longobardi), were a Germanic tribe who ruled a Kingdom in Italy from 568 to 774. After her husbands death only a few months later, after having been confirmed as queen of the Langobards, Theodolinda selected as her second spouse the Langobard count Agilulf, whom she converted to the Catholic faith. In league with Pope Gregory the Great, she devoted herself to the conversion of all of the Langobards, who were adherents to Arianism. She laid the foundation stone for the cathedral at Monza after receiving a vision. The textual source for the Theodolinda cycle was the 'Historia Langobardorum' of Paulus Diaconus (722-799), of which a number of elaborate editions must have existed in the fifteenth century

The forty-five scenes in the painted Theodolinda legend are divided into nine sections, arranged, for the most part, in chronological order. The scenes are presented in four registers reading from left to right and extending across all three walls.

Preview Picture Data File Info Comment
View of the Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda
1430-47
Fresco
Cathedral, Monza

1000*1213
True Color
252 Kb



Theodolinda Cycle (scene No. 1)
1430-47
Fresco
Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza

1313*750
True Color
207 Kb



Theodolinda Cycle (scene No. 2)
1430-47
Fresco
Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza

1315*750
True Color
228 Kb



Theodolinda Cycle (scene No. 10)
1430-47
Fresco
Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza

1100*949
True Color
248 Kb



Theodolinda Cycle (scene No. 11)
1430-47
Fresco
Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza

1105*950
True Color
240 Kb



Theodolinda Cycle (scene No. 11, detail)
1430-47
Fresco
Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza

850*1161
True Color
226 Kb



Theodolinda Cycle (scene No. 13)
1430-47
Fresco
Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza

957*1000
True Color
222 Kb



Theodolinda Cycle (scenes No. 14-15)
1430-47
Fresco
Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza

1401*600
True Color
212 Kb



Theodolinda Cycle (scene No. 21)
1430-47
Fresco
Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza

955*950
True Color
231 Kb



Theodolinda Cycle (scene No. 24)
1430-47
Fresco
Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza

1000*924
True Color
236 Kb



Theodolinda Cycle (scene No. 30)
1430-47
Fresco
Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza

837*1000
True Color
222 Kb



Theodolinda Cycle (scenes No. 31-32)
1430-47
Fresco
Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza

1400*704
True Color
236 Kb



Theodolinda Cycle (scene No. 31, detail)
1430-47
Fresco
Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza

943*1200
True Color
243 Kb



Theodolinda Cycle (scene No. 32, detail)
1430-47
Fresco
Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza

1000*949
True Color
235 Kb



Theodolinda Cycle (scene No. 34)
1430-47
Fresco
Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza

968*900
True Color
234 Kb



Theodolinda Cycle (scene No. 42)
1430-47
Fresco
Tomb Chapel of Queen Theodolinda, Cathedral, Monza

935*1000
True Color
247 Kb




Paintings by Franceschino ZAVATTARI
Fresco cycle in Monza Cathedral | Panel paintings