In response to a recent correspondent: No, while at this year's fantastic Gardone Conference, I did not visit the Vittoriale. This is because I had looked round it five years ago and decided that D'Annunzio was a rather nasty little man, teeth or no teeth, whom I felt no need to revisit.
But I did go this year and look at an exquisite little octagonal Church , the Inviolata, at Riva. Four altars in addition to the High Altar; each a different design but harmoniously integrated. Stucco by David Reti; even the woodwork (doors, confessionals) within that same bracket of 1600ish to 1650.
Only one horrible incongruity: a plain wooden table stuck in front of the High Altar.
Yes yes yes yes yes. I know this sort of monstrosity is pretty common. You will tell me that what I am describing to you is hardly News. But many old churches do not aggressively flaunt their homogeneity. Indeed, it can be an agreeable experience to walk round a corner and find that you have travelled from the fifteenth to the seventeeth century. In principle, why should rounding the next corner not bring us into the twenty first century, and be praised for doing so?
But the Inviolata is so intimately of a piece; it is so very much of just one period. Even if that wooden table had been constructed to be, in the terms of the aesthetic of its own peiod, a thing of beauty, it would have stuck out like a sore thumb.
OK: Sir John Ninian 'Patrimony' Comper, having begun his oeuvre in the Gothic, spread his wings and evolved his theory and praxis of Unity by Inclusion; as, indeed Henry VII had done when he put an Italian Renaissance altar beneath the fan-vaulting of his Lady Chapel at Westminster. Martin Travers ... All this I cannot help but concede.
But ... in that little church at Riva ... this plain little table seemed to me almost diabolical in its loud narcissistic self-assertion; its hubristic mockery of the other five altars in the church.