California Italian Studies
Imaging the Angevin Patron Saint: Mary Magdalen in the Pipino Chapel in Naples
- Author(s): Wilkins, Sarah S.
- et al.
In 1279, the Angevin prince, Charles of Salerno, the future Charles II of Naples, discovered the body of Mary Magdalen in Provence. This inextricably linked the Angevins to the Magdalen, whom they adopted as patron saint of their dynasty. A dynasty uniquely aware of the political benefits of personal relationships with saints, the Angevins enthusiastically promoted the Magdalen’s cult. Significantly, it was in Naples, in 1295—the year the Pope authenticated the body discovered by Charles—that the earliest fresco cycle depicting the Magdalen’s life appeared. Over the subsequent half-century, two additional Magdalen cycles were commissioned in Naples. This efflorescence of Magdalen imagery in Angevin territory was directly tied to Angevin promotion of her cult. The Pipino Chapel in San Pietro a Maiella was the final Magdalen cycle painted in late medieval Naples, and presents the most iconographically sophisticated example of the Angevin impact on Neapolitan Magdalen imagery. By closely examining the Pipino Chapel in the context of Angevin promotion of the Magdalen cult, new meanings for the cycle are revealed, illustrating how the chapel’s unknown patron deployed imagery depicting the life of the Angevin patron saint to propagandize for the dynasty and declare allegiance to it.