Place of Art, Place of Memory

Crowdfunding avoids the closure of one of the most important Prato symbols

23 Jul 2019

A precious place, too precious to be lost

The former convent of San Domenico is one of Prato's most precious treasures.

Built between 1200 and 1300, the church has a medieval façade and wonderfully baroque interiors.
The peculiarity of the museum of San Domenico has its roots in 1974, becoming a unique case in all of Italy: inside there is the Museum of Wall Painting.
It was the first structure in Italy to preserve and pass on detached frescoes and sinopias.
The works of art of the San Domenico museum, however, do not end with the Museum of Wall Painting, because the place has a vast quantity of archaeological finds and objects of sacred art.
In 2012, unfortunately, the museum had to close, but the ArteMia association has activated a fundraiser which, thanks to crowdfunding, has saved this important cultural center.
We decided to ask some questions to the authors of this project.

Tell us more about the history of the former convent of San Domenico.

In 1281 a group of Dominican friars obtained from the Municipality of Prato the concession of a free area - immediately outside the walls of the 12th century - in which to build a convent and a church.

The convent complex, therefore, has a fourteenth-century appearance but the interior of the church is baroque: in 1647 two lightning struck it, setting it alight; only the external structure remained standing; an empty shell that was rebuilt in the central seventeenth century. The convent, passed to the Franciscans in the eighteenth century, was inhabited by the friars until 2003.

What are the most relevant works it contains within it?

Certainly the nucleus of ceramics from the Middle Ages (between the 13th and 14th centuries), the result of an extraordinary discovery in the vaults of the choir of the church of San Domenico: hundreds of intact, kitchen and table vases, extraordinary in itself seen which are usually found in many fragments.

An excavation, among the very few in Italy, in which archaeologists have been able to study in detail this particular construction technique of filling the vaults.

It is also worth mentioning the core of graffiti coming from the boundary wall of the garden of Palazzo Vai (which was accessed from the current Via Verdi), datable to 1480-90, because they are a rare example of fifteenth-century graffito decoration: a technique particular with which, on a gray layer of lime, a thin white plaster was spread on which the design was engraved and some parts were scratched off to bring out the dark below.

What does the San Domenico museum represent for the city of Prato and its community?

The city of Prato, after a period of undoubted crisis, is trying to rediscover its tourist vocation. A museum of this kind has already played a role of true excellence in the past and with the new construction it will be even more so.

The museum will once again expand the cultural offer that the city offers and can be the fulcrum of many initiatives that will orbit around the whole complex of the former convent: visits, workshops, exhibitions, etc. that will be able to open up to the district itself to start an upliftable redevelopment of the whole area. Why did you choose crowdfunding to reopen the museum?

Why did you choose crowdfunding to reopen the museum?

The entire complex of San Domenico has long been a real point of reference for the city but over the last decade it has slowly turned into a "non-place": the conventual community no longer exists, the museum has been closed and the parish has is emptying.

We therefore thought that organizing a crowdfunding would bring not only economic benefits: the current campaign, in fact, is giving us the opportunity to put the attention of the city on the whole San Domenico complex and is helping us to revive it.

What are the advantages and exclusives that the supporters of this project will now have?

First of all it must be said that even those who donate 5 euros will have the opportunity to consider themselves protagonists of the museum's relaunch because they will see their name and surname written on the list of donors that we will post at the entrance of the Museum!

Those who have the pleasure to do, and donate, something more will be able to receive a personal letter of thanks written by the Bishop of Prato, or to participate in a series of unusual guided tours: in addition to the preview visit of the museum, a guided tour of an exclusive place and usually not accessible to the public.

Those who donate in the name of an association, a company or an institution will have the opportunity to see the name of their group on the display cases that display the treasure of San Domenico or on the steps that lead to the museum rooms.

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