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Emilio Greco's doors

Le porte di Emilio GrecoThe last substantial intervention made to Orvieto's Duomo was the replacement of the façade wooden doors with the current bronze doors made by Emilio Greco, which took place between 1962 and 1970. Orvieto's Opera del Duomo entrusted the Sicilian sculptor with the task of making the new Cathedral doors in 1962. The artist, born in Catania in 1913, was a professor of sculpture at Naples' Academy of Fine Arts at the time and a reputed sculptor himself, well known for famous works such as the Monumento a Pinocchio in Collodi (Monument to Collodi's Pinocchio) and for various exhibitions held in Italy and abroad; and in fact, while he was working for Orvieto's Cathedral, he was also entrusted with the task of making the Monumento a Papa Giovanni XXIII (monument to Pope John XXIII) for the Vatican basilica.

Once the sketches were approved by the relevant committee, Emilio Greco delivered the massive bronze doors in 1964. They were cast in the "Fonderia d'arte Cav. Renzo Michelucci" foundry in Pistoia, while a local highly reputed enterprise run by Fernando Tenerelli made the steel frame. The doors arrived in town on 8 August 1964 and were stored inside the Cathedral for Pope Paul VI to see them and give his approval during a pastoral visit to Orvieto.

However, it took six years for these works to be placed in their destined locations, as a national outcry developed in the meantime over whether the Duomo's doors should be replaced at all. Prominent personalities from the world of art and culture faced each other either as supporters or detractors in a no-holds barred fight. As a matter of fact, the argument was not so much over an aesthetic judgment on the works made by Emilio Greco, but was rather based on the idea of preservation and respect of the historical cycle of the monument: it basically included discussions on how and when the cycle should be considered closed and complete, so that further additions and interferences should be excluded. And the political characterization of the two opposite sides became a further complication, until a Ministerial Decree was issued to settle the matter. At last, after preliminary works went on all night, Emilio Greco's bronze doors were hinged on the original openings, at the break of dawn of 11 August 1970. There are three doors in total: two side doors are dedicated to figures of angels, the central one being dedicated to the Works of Mercy, a subject long studied by the artist.

Besides the disputes over the new doors of the Cathedral and, perhaps, because of such a long-standing and suffered issue, a strong tie was established between Emilio Greco and Orvieto and that is why the artist gave the town a major collection of his works to have them exhibited inside Palazzo Soliano, next to the Cathedral he had passionately worked for. On 26 September 2008, on the opening of the new MODO cultural itinerary, which includes the Emilio Greco Hall, the Maestro's daughter Antonella Greco, gave the Opera del Duomo Museum a bronze sketch of the Duomo's doors made by Emilio Greco in 1962, which was then placed at the entrance of the Museum named after the artist. Therefore the sketch, which had been previously kept in the Emilio Greco's Archives in Rome, joined the graphic studies of the Duomo's doors that had already been given to the Opera del Duomo by the artist.