The iconographical programme composed by the subdeacon Ariberto da Intimiano for the basilica of San Vincenzo in Galliano around 1007 can be placed in the context of a general renewal of the basilica, and enables us to reconstruct several cultural references of the ambitious young prelate, in particular, to the early Christian and Byzantine world reread through Ottonian pictorial culture.
Ariberto’s figurative world was that of the high clergy in Milan, linked to the Episcopal milieu, as is demonstrated by some relationships between the Galliano frescoes and contemporary miniatures in the Breviary of Arnolfo II: it is clear that models common to other wall paintings in the Lombard territory were used (for example Barzanò and
Bizzozero). The main group of painters active in the apse in Galliano can also be
identified in the Baptistery in Novara, and probably includes artists at work in other decorative cycles commissioned by bishops, like the apse of San Fedelino in Novate Mezzola, the old inner façade wall of Sant’Ambrogio Vecchio in Prugiasco, the sacellum of San Satiro in Milan, and perhaps in other churches included in the areas acquired by the Ambrosian episcopate between the end of the tenth and the beginning
of the eleventh century. Since the pictorial decoration of the old cathedrals in Milan has been lost, the surviving fragments in the basilica of Sant’Ambrogio take on
special importance, where it seems that some of the formal solutions then adopted in Galliano came to maturity, but refreshed by a new expressive power that finds further impulses in the recovery of Carolingian figurative culture.
At Galliano, the location of the scenes from the life of the saint recall an analogous situation in Müstair, in a Roman type of upgrading of the apse as an early Christian memoria, in which the relics of the saints were recalled by the narration in the painting. In this sense, the profundity of the inscription dictated by Ariberto is significant, as it celebrates painting as a means of knowledge and «maiden who adorns the house of
the Lord by bestowing beauty».