The Duomo of “Orvieto, Italy”
Orvieto is one of the principal sights of the region of Umbria, Italy. Its situation is marvellous - perched high above tufa cliffs - showing traces of every phase of history for the past three thousand years, culminating in its magnificent cathedral. Tourists should on no account miss Orvieto if they are visiting Umbria or southern Tuscany. The tufa butte on which Orvieto is located is itself riddled with tunnels and wells dating from Etruscan times to only a couple of hundred years ago. The most spectacular of these subterranean burrowings is the Pozzo di San Patrizio, a deep well with a double spiral stair leading to the water source at its base. It dates from 1537 and is 62 m deep. If you're in need of exercise, it's possible to descend and return. Try carrying up a couple of buckets of water - it'll bring the life of earlier times vividly before you.
Lake of Bolsena
Principal sights of Orvieto
The cathedral of Orvieto is one of the most beautiful churches in
Umbria, indeed in all of Italy. It was begun in 1285 and is Gothic in style, with three naves. Its tripartite façade was
conceived by Lorenzo Maitani and is decorated in its lower portion with scenes from the Old and New Testaments, and with mosaics and statues of the Blessed Virgin, the
Prophets and the Apostles in its upper part. The walls in the interior are constructed of layers of Travertine marble and of
basalt. The choir was frescoed with illustrations of the life of the Blessed
Virgin by Ugolino di Prete Ilario, Peter di Puccio and Anthony of
Viterbo. The chapel on the right, called Our Lady of San Brizio, was painted by the
Fra Angelico of Fiesole ("Christ Glorified", "Last Judgment", and "The Prophets",
carried out in 1447) and by Luca Signorelli ("Fall of Antichrist", "Resurrection of the Dead", "Damned and Blessed",
etc.). Michelangelo took inspiration from these paintings for his "Last Judgment"
in the Sistine Chapel. The "Burial of Jesus" is also by Signorelli, and there are several sculptures by Scalza (1572), among them the group of the
Pietà, chiselled from a single block of marble. The chapel on the opposite side, called "of the Corporal", contains the large reliquary in which is preserved the corporal of the
miracle of Bolsena. This receptacle was made by order of Bishop Bertrand dei Monaldeschi, by the
Siennese Ugolino di Mæstro Vieri (1337). It is made of silver, adorned with
enamels that represent the Passion of Jesus and the
miracle. The frescoes of the walls, by Ugolino (1357-64), also represent the miracle.
Orvieto Papal Palace
was for long in papal territory. Pope Boniface VIII was from Orvieto and donated statues of himself
for the main city gates, earning him some criticism from his many enemies.
Orvieto Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo
This is a simple building that nevertheless maintains an impressive grandeur. Work on the construction of the palazzo began in the
13 C on an area that had been occupied since 1157 by the Papal Palace built under the reign of Pope Hadrian IV.
Etruscan ruins in and near Orvieto
Orvieto is also home to Etruscan ruins and the remnants of a wall that enclosed the city more than 2000 years ago. At the foot of the butte, surrounded by peach and apple trees and a vineyard, the Etruscan necropolis of Crocefisso di Tufo counts a hundred or so chamber tombs laid along a rectangular street grid.
The Rocca or Fortress of Albornoz
The Fortezza dell'Albornoz stands in Piazza Cahen,
an area that was once occupied by a temple, known by the Etruscan name of Augurale.
The fortress was built by order of the Spanish Cardinal Albornoz on
behalf of Pope Innocent VI and designed by the condottiero and military engineer Ugolino di Montemarte.
Orvieto - the underground city
The city of Orvieto has long kept the secret of its labyrinth of caves and tunnels that lie beneath the surface. Dug deep into the
soft volcanic tufo, these hidden and secret tunnels are only now open to view through guided tours. Their spectacular nature has also yielded many historical and
The Holy Linen of Bolsena
In 1263-64, a Bohemian priest, Peter of Prague, went to Rome to better understand the miracle of Transubstantiation. On his way back from Rome, he stopped in Bolsena to celebrate a mass and he saw some blood spilling from the Holy Host. Pope Urban IV was in Orvieto the time and decided to transfer the Holy Linen from Bolsena to Orvieto. He decided also to create the "Corpus Domini" day, one of the most important feast days of Christianity. On 13 November 1290, Pope Nicolò IV laid the first stone of the new church. Construction continued for about three centuries. The first architect was Arnolfo di Cambio, and it seems that he was helped by Fra' Bevignate of Perugia. Important assistance was provided by the architect Lorenzo Maitani, who created a sound structure for the transept and proposed the coloured façade. The interior of the cathedral is simple and austere. A wonderful organ, one of the biggest in Italy, is located in the transept. The most important work of art of the cathedral is the reliquary of the Holy Linen of Bolsena. There are also illustrations of the miracle of Bolsena and life of Christ.
Origins of Orvieto
The name of the city appears to date back to this period of time. In fact, Velzna became known as Volsinii Veteres (Ancient Volsinii) or Urbs Vetus (the Old City) as distinguished from Volsinii Novi (New Volsinii), which today is known as Bolsena.
Etruscan and Roman Orvieto
The history of Orvieto begins in the
9-8 centuries B.C. when the rock was occupied for the first time by the Etruscans. The site of this settlement has in fact been identified with the Etruscan
centre of Velzna (Volsinii in Latin), a city which began to flourish at
the beginning of the 6th century B.C. This economic prosperity was based mainly upon the production of ceramics and on bronze work.
Goths and Longobards
At the time of the barbarian invasions, Orvieto was occupied by Alaric the Goth and by Odovacar. Vitige took advantage of its strategic natural position to create a defensive stronghold in the war against the Byzantines. The imperial general Belisarius succeeded in conquering the position after a bitter siege in 538 A.D. It was reoccupied temporarily by Totila before the final defeat of the Goths.
In 596, Orvieto was occupied by the Longobard Agilulfo and had its own bishop and later, in 606, its own counts. One of the counts of Orvieto, Farolfo, within the framework of the religious rebirth imposed by Emperor Otto III, and in collaboration with Saint Romualdo, promoted the establishment of abbeys and monasteries in the surrounding territories. In the 11 C, Orvieto became a Comune or City-State. The towers and palaces of noblemen of the area who had relocated to the city began to be built.
Orvieto the City State
The institution of the Comune is documented beginning in 1137. Twenty years later a treaty was signed with Pope
Adrian IV, which increased papal influence in the city and gave way to the
struggle between the Guelfs or papal faction and the Ghibellines or imperialist
faction. This struggle was destined to extend over a long period of time and marked the successive history of the city.
In the meantime, the jurisdiction of the Comune was extended from
Orbetello. The vitality of Orvieto can be seen in the construction activity of the period. It is at this time that the churches of San Lorenzo degli
Arari, of San Francesco, of San Domenico, of Santa Maria dei Servi were built, as well as many public buildings such as the Comunal Palace, the Palazzo del Capitano del
Popolo, and the Papal Palace. And in 1290, the building of the Cathedral was begun.
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