Orvieto’s Duomo

December 15, 2010 / Places
Orvieto, Umbria
Orvieto is a town perched on top of a 600-foot plateau of volcanic rock. It’s fun to park below and take the funicular to the top, imagining what’s in store.

Once in the main square, you’ll face the brilliant signature of the town, the astounding golden façade of its cathedral, soaring seven stories high. This cathedral is a work of art in itself, the horizontal stripes inside and out are similar to those in Sienna, but here its powerful buttresses dominate the vertical structure, as if the stripes wrap a marvelous gift. The Gothic façade of the Orvieto Cathedral is one of the great masterpieces of the Late Middle Ages.

At the time it was built, the cathedral of Orvieto was an old dilapidated basilica. It took the Popes sixty years to convince the townspeople to sponsor the construction of a new one. When the cornerstone was laid in 1290, the old building began to acquire a new appearance, blending Byzantine and northern elements into a prime example of Italian Gothic style.

The town’s famous gray and white basalt and travertine Cathedral, with an exposed timber roof, dominates the surrounding countryside. From the hill toward Montefiascone and Bolsena, its possible to take a spectacular photo, especially during the afternoon, when sun shines on its golden façade.

Evanne Brandon-Diner

by Evanne Brandon-Diner

Chronicler of local village life in Northern Lazio, and property restoration and purchasing consultant. www.lavventuraitalia.com

9 Responses to “Orvieto’s Duomo”

  1. Paula Cullison

    Buon Giorno. Grazie Mille for the article on Orvieto. It certainly brought back wonderful memories of several days spent there a few years ago. As you noted, the cathedral is absolutely magnificent.
    While there, we took the local bus to Bagna Reggio and then walked to Civita, a charming pedestrian only hilltop town which seems to be run by the female octogenarians who own the vineyards.(highly recommended)
    Buon Viaggio a Tutti!

  2. The Cathedral houses the stunning frescoes done by prominent Renaissance artist Luca Signorelli over a 4-year period (1499-1503) – worth the trip alone to see.
    Several art history texts attest to Michelangelo having travelled to Orvieto to see them himself, before commencing work (4 years also) on his masterpiece at the Sistine Chapel (1508-1512). This trip would have taken a few days from Rome (though only 95 km), likely on horseback and by walking, through some rather dangerous parts of Italy at the time. The master meeting the master, where can be seen some aspects of Signorelli’s influence on Michelangelo.

  3. Orvieto is one my favorite Italian cities. Last time there, it was so foggy I couldn’t find the Cathedral. It did make for some interesting photos. OH, how I miss Italy.

  4. Gayle Thomas

    This attraction is on my “to do list in my lifetime” and it’s written in ink

  5. For years, while driving in Italy, I would see Orvieto onto of the hill off the A1, saying to myself, ” I need to go there”. Now, whenever I am not in a hurry and passing by, I will stop.

  6. We love Orvieto and the Cathedral is stunning-we will be returning for a visit next Sept. I might like it more than my husband as he spends most of the time steering me away from ceramic shops! I might add he is unsuccesful at keeping me on budget :)

  7. What an experience the Cathedral of Orvieto is outside and in. We were especially enthralled with the altar cloth miracle on display in the side altar.


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