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Domenico Carella: The Chapel of the Sacrament in Saint Martino's Cathedral

"Mother Mary, full of grace..."

The sunlight that filters across the yellow glasses of big windows and Baroque marbles of the chapel of the Sacrament shine of an amber coloured aura. From the row of black chairs, a chorus of old women says the rosary before the beginning of the evening mass. For the whole day the foreign voices of the tourists visiting Martina Franca has rung among the benches of the church. Now you can hear just the monotonous tune of orations: San Martino's Cathedral is a place of worship again.

This is the best moment to come here. You must enter in tiptoes, reach the chapel on the left of the high alter and pass under the curtain of yellow brocade; then, in silence, sit and admire. The big painting is there in front of you, right in the centre of the apse: The Last Supper by Domenico Carella

Women list one after the other the Mysteries and here that the character of the coterie may come to life. Two angels open the purple curtains on the scene of the coterie. Here the room with the big round table. Christ is in the middle, the bread raised for the bless, and the disciples are all around him. Three janitors with many dishes do that and this; there is a little dog hidden under the table : it quietly leaks the remains of the supper. You can see big ochre-coloured clouds far away, between a couple of columns, and hosts of angels comes down right on Christ's head.   Judas is on the left, in front of everybody, very far from the Master: as the other disciples have rosy and kind faces as his face is greenish and his feature shabby. "This is my body", seems Jesus to say, but Judas turns the other side. In a moment he is going to stand up and to go away.

Those who like Apulian Baroque art surely know him. Martina Franca, Francavilla Fontana, Taranto. Lecce, Conversano, Massafra, Castellaneta: almost in every town of the land of Bari until Salento there is at least a painting signed by Domenico Carella. The Last Supper that is conserved here was his last painting. He realized it  when he was over eighty. It was 1804. The painter died in 1813, after having spread in Apulia Neapolitan Baroque painting.  Francesco Solimena was his master during his youth in Neaples. From him he learned the care for composition and the careful use of architectures as they were set designs. Once back in his birth place, Francavilla Fontana, and then in Martina Franca, Carella became one of the most appreciated artists from local customers.

"Glory be to the Father..."

From the last rows of chairs the gaze can branch off on multicolour marbles and on the statues of the chapel. Porphyry, travertine, golden marquetry. At the entry ther are two couples of columns: looking at them from here, they are exactly like those in Carella's painting. Up the chapel ends with a dome.

Among the clouds,  drifting down the wind that blows robes, four saints emerge. "In the beginning was the Word", can you see on the book: it's John; Marc has the lion near to him and Matthew offers his gospel. Angels fly around Luke, but he doesn't think about them; Mary is sitting in front of him holding the Baby in her arms; he's busy with brushes and canvas, making her portrait.

The four evangelists that decorate the rib vaults of the dome are Carella's work, too. He realized them in 1785, much before the Last Supper. Representing Luke, he took the old iconography that wanted him as a painter and an author of the portrait of the Virgin.   Maybe it was a way to ingratiate the benevolence of artists' patron.

A woman enter the chapel toward the altar and her quick steps break up the monotony of prayer.   She goes on on the presbytery and lights the candles of the altar. The mass is going to begin. At the sound of the bell everybody stands up: the priest has come in.


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