Monday, February 02, 2009

Orvieto: Gothic is Good

I find I'm getting a little sick of Baroque. Took a day trip on Saturday to the ancient city of Orvieto where Gothic is king.

Orvieto is a city in southwestern Umbria, Italy situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic tuff. The site of the city is among the most dramatic in Europe, rising above the almost-vertical faces of tuff cliffs that are completed by defensive walls built of the same stone. ..The ancient city (urbs vetus in Latin, ["old city"] whence "Orvieto"), populated since Etruscan times, has usually been associated with Etruscan Velzna, but some modern scholars differ...Orvieto was annexed by Rome in the third century BC...

It is a city of ancient secrets, including an underground labyrinth...which we didn't go to.

...and Il Duomo.

with statues (one of the evangelists...which one is the lion again?)

And frescoes

and a real medieval rose window

and carvings,

(The damned. Makes you want to go to confession.)

and, I'll get it...
that mosaic decoration on the twisty columns...starts with a 'c'...
can't remember.


Windows made of very thin slices of alabaster.

St. Sebastian one of the surviving medieval frescoes. Once, the entire interior of the church would have been covered in them.

Some saints. Possibly St. Benedict on the left?

Once, the entire interior of the church would have been covered in frescoes, and would have looked much like this.

Other than the cathedral, there is lots to do and see.

Stemmae (coats of arms) of local nobles on the clock tower,

Lots of spiffy little shops,

A lot of specialty shops that catered to tourists and sold a lot of pig-oriented food.

And there were stuffed wild boars everywhere.

Is it Hello Kitty meets the local BDSM community?

Nope, it's a pet supply store with a somewhat shaky grasp of English idiom.

To get up to the old city, you take a kind of monorail thing that hauls you up the cliff face, at the top of which there are lots of scenic vistas.

Neither of us looking terribly comfortable.

Chris and I discovered we share a mutual fear discomfort around precipitous drops. Cliffs and what not. Things you can fall off to a terrible death.

Lots of charming medieval Italian street scenes.

It's a pity this church was too dark for pictures. It is San Giovenale (Juvenal) and almost all of its wall frescoes were intact.

We were there in the late afternoon to the evening and it was wonderful when the bells of the many churches started ringing for the evening Mass. In such a place, one could almost imagine what the world was like before Christendom was destroyed.

Looking through the battlements at another terrifying precipitous death-drop scenic vista.

Italians love their cats.

Note battlements in the foreground. This city was well equipped with wells and with tunnels cut into the butte that could allow escape in times of siege. It had the shadows and echoes of thousands of years of war.


Anonymous said...


Mark S. Abeln said...

Lovely photos as always.

For the dark churches, you may want to consider getting a mini-pocket-sized tripod. I saw one for sale on Amazon for just a penny. Weighs nothing yet keeps the camera steady; also good for self-portraits.

Anonymous said...

Love it when you post pics! Indulge yourself anytime!

Anonymous said...

Surely those are mosaics on the facade. T.

Winefred said...

But don't you find Orvieto just a bit "gay Gothic" -- as compared to, say, Amiens or Chartres? A bit too pastel. However, I second your Baroque ennui.

John Vicente said...

My guess is the facade probably wasn't done until some time in the nineteenth century just like The cathedral in Florence.

Rubens R├╝benlese said...

On my way to the beatification i got of at the orvieto Trainstation and then walked on to Bolsena an Civita de Bagnoregio- hope you had chance to get to the sight of THE EUCHRARISTIC MIRACLE (Bolsena) that finaly led to Corpus Cristi and to the Birthplace of St. Bonaventura (Bagnioregio)! Romes surrounded by sight of pure holiness it seems- by coincidence read in Pope Pius II (Picilomini) memoirs about his visits to Orvieto: one pope had cursed the citiy, and it was ever since, so he had to un-curse is, and things got good again! pax to you from Austria