The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (Duomo)

Piazza Duomo

Along via Saffi, flanked by the northern side of the Town Hall, you have a superb sight on the Cathedral. The scenographic staircase of via dell’Arringo leads you to piazza del Duomo, created through a terracing on Colle Sant’Elia and widened in the XIIth century. The result is an actual scenic stage, closed on the back by the church, on the right by the façade of  Palazzo Ràcani Arroni, decorated by XVIth-century monochromatic graffiti, and on the left side by the apse of the Basilica of Sant’Eufemia and, at the bottom of the staircase, by Lynn Chadwick’s  Stranger III, also included in the 1962 exhibition Sculture nella città. On the square’s left side, there is the Teatro Caio Melisso, the city’s oldest theatre, built in the XVIIth cen and rehandled in the XIXth cen, that bears the name of a Spoletan comedist who was friend of Mecenate, Augustus’ trustworthy librarian; soon after there is the church of S. Maria della Manna d’Oro, erected as thanksgiving to the Virgin who protected the city during the 1527 events, which climaxed in the Sack of Rome. The theatre and the Church stand where the Palazzo della Signoria should have risen, a grandiose XIVth-century building lying on the Piazza della Signoria underneath, that was never completed and only reached the square’s level.

Cathedral

The Cathedral, rebuilt at the end of the XIIth cen.,took the place of the ancient building of Santa Maria del Vescovato (8th-9th century), which in its turn had already replaced a primitive Christian temple dedicated to martyr Primiano. Under the façade, embellished by Solsterno’s mosaic , there is a 1491 portico by Ambrogio Barocci, a famous maestro who had worked in the splendid ducal residence in Urbino with Francesco di Giorgio Martini. The use of chromatically contrasting materials (grey and pink stones from the mounts around Spoleto) fully exalts the chiaroscuro effect and the decorative skills of Lombard decorators who, as testified to by archives documents, were experts in this kind of art, as testified to in archives’ papers.

The IXth cen. crypt of S. Primiano is an exceptional Early Middle Ages monument, the only surviving element of the ancient cathedral’s layout. It is accessible through the parsonage. There, you see coeval frescoes that possibly show Tales of San Benedetto and of Santa Scolastica; the crypt is barrel-vaulted.

A number of absolutely remarkable works are on display inside the Duomo. At the end of the right aisle, you can see Alberto Sotio’s Painted Cross (1187) in the iconography of the living (triumphans) Christ, developed in the XIIth century in central Italy. Other XIIth-XIVth century Crosses coming from the town’s collection are on display at the Museum of the Duchy, on both Sotio’s model, and on the model of the suffering (patiens) Christ, with his head reclined on his shoulder, that would become widespread past the XIIIth century.
The apse presents a remarkable painted cycle with Stories of the Virgin, frescoed by Filippo Lippi between 1467 and 1469.

The XIVth-cen. chapel of Sant’Anna is also particularly interesting; it was conceived as an extension of the transept’s left wing, that includes traces of XIVth/XVIth-cen. frescoes.
The chapels Eroli and dell’Assunta, on the right aisle also deserve particular attention (frescoes by Pinturicchio and Jacopo Siculo), as well as the chapel of the Holy Icon on the right transept, that holds the precious tablet given in 1185 by emperor Frederick I Barbarossa to the town as a sign of peace. The chapel delle Reliquie (end of the left aisle), keeps a handwritten letter by Saint Francis to Frate Leone. Besides his mortal remains, Saint Francis’ most precious relics are his handwritten letters: only two exist, one of which is this one in Spoleto, a small, rectangular goatskin parchment, measuring 13×6 cm, containing 19 lines and perfectly maintained. The other one is the so-called “chartula”, written after Saint Francis received stigmata on Mount Verna in 1224, and is kept at the Assisi basilica.

Address: Piazza Duomo

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