THE ARCH OF THE RESURRECTION
Reading the figurative and symbolic elements
This is an arched doorway with an adjoining votive chapel.
The arch has a “two-dimensional” structure: its depth is negligible compared to its height and width. It requires an indicated access, limited by the side walls and the roof.
The archway was the monumental entrance to the village, on an important and transited street. Those coming from the bottom of the valley saw this building manifestation as a calling card. Its presence was to attest to the importance of the place.
Like the entrance arches of all times, it has its own protective function: to nullify evil influences coming from outside, to ward off dangers from the village in order to preserve the harmony and well-being of the community living there.
It is an honorary arch, built to celebrate the dead of the village, in particular those of the plague, those of the First World War and those of the Gleno Dam disaster.
There is no certain historical information on the date of construction.
In a research on the archpriests of Vilminore, it is said that Don Angelo Milesi wanted it built in 1900, not only for devotional purposes, but also to provide work for the many unemployed fathers of families. Archpriest Milesi also promoted the construction of the arch in Via Valgimigli and, most probably, the chapels of the Way of the Cross.
An inscription inside the arch, above the chapel gate, reads:
TO THE MEMORY OF THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED – ERECTED BY THE PEOPLE OF VILMINORE IN THE YEAR OF CHOLERA 1867 AND BY THE VETERANS OF THE EUROPEAN WAR WITH GRATEFUL HEARTS IN THE YEAR 1921.
During the 19th century, Italy experienced six epidemic waves of cholera, from 1835 to 1893. The one of 1867 came to Lombardy from the southern port areas. The Scalve Valley had many deaths, as the peasant populations, due to their economic and social conditions, were particularly exposed to the epidemic.
People relied on religion rather than medicine and here, as in other parts of Italy, they left signs of Christian faith in eternal life. The Arch is an example of this.
Still above the entrance gate to the chapel is an inscription in Latin:
EGO SUM RESURECTIO ET VITA
I AM RESURRECTION AND LIFE
The phrase is taken from the Gospel of John, chapter 11, when it speaks of the death of Lazarus and the miracle of his resurrection.
This inscription means: when you think of the dead, release them from their death and free yourselves from the idea of death as the end of a person. Believe that you too will rise, because you are loved by the Lord, like Lazarus.
On either side of the inscription, but a little further down, are two identical symbolic images. Each of them reproduces:
- THE MONOGRAM OF CHRIST
The original symbol of the early Christians was not the cross, but this sign. Overlapping XP correspond to CR in the Greek alphabet. They are the first two letters of the word ‘Christ’ written in Greek (ΧPIΣTOΣ). The letters are placed in a circle, which in Christianity represents eternity.
We remain under the Arch. Opposite the wall with the chapel gate is the wall dedicated to the fallen people of the First World War. There is a gravestone and graffiti decorations.
- THE TOMBSTONE
The plaque bears this dedication: THE VETERANS OF THE GREAT WAR WITH CHRISTIAN THOUGHT REMEMBER THEIR FALLEN BROTHERS.
There follow the names of 15 people, whose surnames are those of Scalve Valley origin.
The tombstone is adorned with an ornament composed of several elements.
Laurel and Oak branches: respectively symbols of glory and strength, in both a physical and moral sense.
WEAPONS: symbolic images of war.
CROCIATED SHIELD SURROUNDED BY CROWN: Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Italy.
The oral transmission of the people recalls a tree-lined avenue leading to the Arch, with the name of each fallen soldier on each tree. This is historically well-founded since a new type of memorial, the Park or Viale della Rimembranza (Royal Decree in 1923), was devised as early as the first Mussolini government.
- THE FRIEZE ABOVE THE TOMBSTONE
This is a strip, as wide as the wall, with an eagle in the center surrounded by a crown and two torches on either side.
EAGLE WITH EXPANDED WINGS: symbol of victory (in war, but, in faith, also over death).
CROWN OF OAK, called CIVIC CROWN: represents prowess on the battlefield, courage.
An eagle like this (with the consular fasces in its talons) surrounded by the civic crown was THE STEM OF THE REPUBLIC IN ANCIENT ROME. This frieze is therefore intended to recall the glorious origins of Italian history.
LIGHTED TORCHES: to illuminate the path of immortality for the fallen.
- THE OVERARCHING CHRISTIAN SYMBOLS
ALPHA AND OMEGA: first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, they are used to represent Christ (Revelation XXII, 13: “I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end”). It alludes not only to the eternity of Christ the Savior, but to his work in creation as the Word and in the end of the world as the Judge.
A CROSS IN FRONT OF A SUN: The Resurrection. For those who believe, Christ took upon himself the sufferings of all men (represented by the cross) and defeated death, opening the door to the glory of eternal life (represented by the sun).
For Christians, the symbol of the cross is the most familiar and customary image, and there was no home in the last century where a crucifix did not hang as a reminder of faith in this mystery of salvation.
- THE WAY OF THE CROSS
In a vision of faith, from this Arch, the road has its ideal extension in the Way of the Cross, which stands out in the background and crosses the entire village at the top, almost embracing it. After passing under the Arch, if one continues the route to the village center, one can take the Via Crucis path behind the church, which is marked by small chapels.
At the beginning of the path is the inscription PER CRUCEM AD LUCEM, which picks up the theme of faith in the Resurrection expressed by the elements of the Arch.
We are still under the Arch and turn again towards the chapel. To the right of the iron gate is the slot of a walled alms box.
- IN SUFFRAGE
The word OFFERING is visible on the wall.
Money was freely donated for masses in suffrage of the dead; the priest used it for the needs of the parish.
The word ‘suffrage’ means the application of prayers and good works. The purpose of requesting a suffrage mass was and is to recall in the celebration the death and resurrection of Jesus and, with it, to ask for the forgiveness of the sins of the petitioner and the deceased.
We enter the chapel. Our gaze is drawn to a beautiful painting, whose author is unknown, placed above the altar. We discover the various compositional elements and reflect on their significance.
- THE PAINTING OF THE RISEN CHRIST
The work depicts the Resurrection of Jesus in an unusual way, as most frequently we find either the victorious Christ above the uncovered tomb (sometimes with the sleeping soldiers), or the angel appearing to the women on their way to the tomb. Here instead we have the angel and Jesus communicating with each other. We can think of it as the moment just after the resurrection.
JESUS CHRIST is partly wrapped in a red cloak: he is conquering death; he is shedding the greatest limitation of human nature. Standing on a cloud, he is not standing still, but in a dynamic attitude. With his right hand he points to his chest (the heart, the wound in his side): he is true man; with his left hand he blesses by pointing to the sky (the Son sent by the Father, second person of the Trinity): he is true God.
The robe of the ANGEL is almost translucent, golden, as if reflecting the light emanating from the risen Jesus. The angel speaks to Jesus and listens to him, acts as an intermediary between him and the needs, questions and uncertainties of men.
At the feet of the angel:
CROSS: an instrument of injustice, pain and death, which becomes in Jesus a symbol of divine sharing and closeness in the suffering of every man.
CYMPUS: an hourglass and the Greek letters alpha and omega are engraved on it, to indicate that the Lord is the master of time and that his plan of Love has no boundaries.
HEX AND BONE: these are but mortal remains, because the Easter event has opened up eternal life to men, children of God in baptism.
GREEN PLANT that sprouts under the cross, a sign of rebirth and promise. It is a symbol of the salvation brought by Jesus: “A shoot will sprout from the trunk of Jesse; a bud will sprout from its roots. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him…” (Isaiah 11).
THE FAITHFUL WHO PRAY WHILE LOOKING AT THE FRESCO, PLACE THEMSELVES BEHIND THE ANGEL TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS ENCOUNTER THAT GIVES CONSOLATION, STRENGTH AND HOPE IN ALL ADVERSITY.
- THE DECORATION OF THE WALLS
The painted geometric shapes create a tessellation that captures the eye with its unusual design. The entire wall gives a sense of strength and an illusion of infinity.
The most striking figure is the octagon.
For Christians, THE NUMBER EIGHT is primarily linked to the day of Christ’s Resurrection. It is the number of newness, of the beginning, of the promise of resurrection even for man transfigured by divine grace.
- THE SYMBOL ON THE CEILING
In a radiant sun are the letters IHS, the initials for ‘Iesus Hominum Salvator’ (Jesus Savior of mankind). The name Jesus in Hebrew means God saves.
IHS are also the first three of the name Jesus in Greek ΙΗΣΟΥΣ (Iesûs).
THE CENTRAL SUN is a clear allusion to Christ who gives life as the sun does and suggests the idea of the radiance of Love. The tongues of fire recall the presence of the Holy Spirit.
On the median line of the H rests the cross.
- Viale Vittorio Emanuele vilminore