The apse of Spoleto cathedral is decorated with a beautiful - and recently restored - fresco cycle by Filippo Lippi which shows scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary. The frescos show the Annunciation - when Mary learns that she has been chosen to bear the son of God, a Nativity scene, the death of Mary and the Coronation of Mary surrounded by golden haired angels.
Filippo Lippi included himself in the fresco showing the death of Mary. He is the Carmelite friar to the right of the picture, dressed in grey and black, with a black hat. His assistants are behind him and his son - yes, his son - Fillippino Lippi, dressed as an angel and holding a candle, who grew up to be as famous a painter as his father.
Stories of the time will tell you that Filippo Lippi loved the ladies. He died in Spoleto in 1469, and it has been said that he was poisoned by the indignant relatives of one of his lady friends. The frescos were completed by his assistants.
Spoleto in the 15th century was likely to be a dark and dangerous little town. Lippi probably took one risk too many with his lady friends and paid with his life. His "day job" - painting these beautiful frescos remain for us to see.
Walking through the - quite steep and winding - streets of Spoleto a visitor can come across the cathedal, which is set in a peaceful square, quite suddenly.
It was rebuilt at the end of the 12th century and the facade is decorated with a beautiful mosaic and a rose window. The columns at the main entrance are elaborately carved with birds and creatures - such as a serious looking owl which is shown in the next photo.
The cathedral is light and airy inside, there are some wonderful frescos by Filippo Lippi - more to come on these - and, as Spoleto is slightly off the beaten track, except during festival time, it is possible to look at whatever you like, for as long as you like.
This church is situated just off Piazza Mercato, the old Roman Forum. It is built upon the foundations of a Roman temple and shop, as some fragments of walls and part of a column show. The church was built in the 12th century, but its present appearance dates from a makeover in the 18th century.
There are two good reasons to visit this church: one of the side altars on the right has a beautiful Renaissance fresco of the Madonna and Child by Lo Spagna. To the left of the choir you can enter the crypt, that has retained parts of its 6th century frescoes and a sarcophagus from the same period.
Spoleto's Roman theatre (1st century AD) didn't stand the tooth of time undamaged. On the contrary, a church and convent were built over the theatre in the Middle Ages, which gives the place a disorderly appearance nowadays.
You can see most of the theatre through the railings at Piazza della Libertà and for most tourists this will probably be enough. A visit to the theatre and archaeological museum doesn't add too much in my opinion. The subterranean parts of the theatre are mostly off limits and the exhibits in the museum are modest. Pride of the place are the Lex Luci Spoletina (3rd century BC), two inscribed stones with laws protecting a sacred wood. However, to fully appreciate these monuments thorough knowledge of Latin is a prerequisite.
Opening hours: 8.30 - 19.30
San Salvatore is one of the oldest churches in Italy still in existence. Its origins date back to the 4th century, but the building was restored in the 8th century. This makes it a rare example of Lombard art. It's clear to see that the church was built in Roman times, many columns and other ornaments were taken from other buildings and incorporated in the building.
Nowadays the church is very much in decay. Some of the columns look as if they could fall down any minute. You really have the impression that you're walking in an age old church.
The church is somewhat difficult to find, hidden in a cemetery. But the walk to the church is an experience in itself, as you can admire many family vaults of all styles and tastes.
Close to Piazza del Mercato, which used to be the forum, the remains of a Roman house were found in the 19th century. It is claimed to have belonged to Vespasia Polla, mother of emperor Vespasianus, but this is far from certain. Whoever the owner was, the remnants give a good impression of the lay-out of an aristocratic Roman villa from the 1st century AD.
Although this is not a spectacular Roman monument, the black-and-white mosaics are beautiful and even some traces of the original wall painting have survived.
16 March - 15 October:
10 - 19 (10 - 20 in August)
16 October - 15 March:
10:30 - 17
Arguably the most famous monument of Spoleto, the Duomo is beautifully situated at the bottom of a sloping square. It's an example of the Romanesque style, but many alterations were made later, especially during the Renaissance. The church was consecrated in 1198, when it was rebuilt after a devastating visit by Barbarossa.
The façade is very elegant, with its eight rose windows and central mosaic depicting Christ, the Virgin and St. John. The mosaic is signed by one Solsternus (1207). The central rose window is surrounded by the symbols of the four Evangelists, a feature quite common in Umbria.
Opening hours: 7:30 - 12:30 and 15 - 18
Much of the interior of the Duomo fell victim to renovations in the 17th century, which robbed the church of most of its charm. Fortunately, the original marble floor and the wonderful frescoes in the central apse survived. The latter were painted by the Florentine artist Filippo Lippi and his assistants Fra' Diamanti and Pier Matteo. On the lower level, scenes from the life of Mary (Annunciation, Assumption and Nativity), above it a wonderful Coronation.
Don't forget to take a look in the first chapel on the right (beautiful Madonna with Child by Pinturicchio) and the last chapel on the left (letter by St. Francis, one of only two that survived).
Built in the 1st century AD, with a diameter 70 metres long, the structure was long buried underground and not easily identifiable because of the various medieval buildings that had arisen around it; it was totally restored only in 1954.
One can admire part of the old flooring and other remains. Important cultural events are held in it each year.
The so-called Ponte Sanguinario was built in the 1st century BC, in the period when the Via Flaminia was improved by order of Augusto: formed from large blocks of travertine, it is 24 metres long, 4,5 metres wide and 8 metres high, divided into three arches; now it is in part subterranean. According to what some history scholars say, the name "sanguinario" derives from the fact that many Christian martyrs were murdered in this zone. The bridge was abandoned because the stream Tessino changed its course. Discovered in 1817, it was placed underground so that people could pass through Leonina Gate.
Its entrance is situated in the courtyard of the Archbishop's Residence; the building, dating back probably to the 12th century, is rather interesting: in Romanesque style, it has a simple façade, the interior divided into three naves with three apses, and, the only one in Umbria, women's galleries.
The magnificent Duomo of Spoleto, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, was built at the end of the 12th century, in Romanesque style, in the place of the old cathedral destroyed by Barbarossa in 1155, and was consecrated by Innocenzo III in 1198.
The facade, divided into three vertical compartments, presents in the lower part a splendid Romanesque portal and an elegant portico in Renaissance style; in the median part there are a blind gallery, a splendid rose-window and other four small rose-windows; in the upper storey, triangular in shape, can be admired three rose-windows and three ogival arches, the median one with a mosaic Byzantine in style. Next to the church there is the big bell-tower of the 12th century, built using Roman and Early Middle Ages materials.
Ponte dele Torri, a lovely 14 th century bridge behind the town. Don't miss it. It is a beautiful medieval bridge nestled in some lovely hills. There is a 12th century church on the other side of the bridge that you can also explore.
If you're in Spoleto don't miss the interior of the Duomo. The Piazza del Duomo which sits in front of the church is lovely, and at first when you walk into the church the interior seems out of context, it's much too bright and lavishly Baroque. However if you walk to the back of the church to the aspe, you'll see the lovely 15h century fresco by Fra Lippo Lippi. One of the most talented renaissance artists. Fra Lippo Lippi was the teacher of later Florentine master Sandro Botticelli.
Lovely Piazza that takes you by surprise. You walk up to it on a blind turn, then you see the church. I thought it was very impressive.