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. . .out of the whirl of jag detail the various aspects of Sigismundo - fighting, negotiating, protecting his family and his city - assert themselves and imply a personality, the centre of which is the construction of the Tempio Malatestiano at Rimini. 'A splendid church,' admitted his enemy Pope Pius II, 'dedicated to St Francis, though he filled it so full of pagan works of art that it seemed less a Christian sanctuary than a temple of heathen devil-worshippers. In it he erected for his mistress a tomb of magnificent marble and exquisite workmanship with an inscription in the pagan style as follows: "Sacred to the deified Isotta".

The Tempio, though never finished, is a great achievement; Alberti was the architect, the bas-reliefs are by Agostino di Duccio, Piero della Francesca and others, the marble was brought from San Apollinare in Classe. It is unique, perhaps the most original church of its time, a monument of beauty and power. Like many a Renaissance church it is really a monument to the greater glory of its patron and to his ideals; in this case, to his love for his third wife, Isotta. The Tempio is a monument very similar to the Cantos. It stands off the beaten track in the old town, which is now a dusty annexe to the popular beach resort. From the outside it is powerful and austere, the masterpiece of the first architect of the Renaissance; inside, it is a cabinet of beauties, disregarded.


From The Poetic Achievement of Ezra Pound. Copyright © 1979 by Michael Alexander.