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Saturday 16 December 2017
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PERUGIA

San Sisto - An Impregnable Fortress


11th century maps intidate that San Sisto and Sant’Andrea delle Fratte were two different fortresses known as Sansoste and Sant’Andrea delle Fratte. Both castles stood along the main communication routes that ran through the lands controlled by Perugia, today Via Pievaiola and Viale San Sisto, in what is today the Porta Santa Susanna quarter of town.

Emperor Frederick II at San Sisto
The ruins of the castle of San Sisto are still visible on the slopes of Mount Lacugnano. It is likely that a lord lived here in the Middle Ages, with the castle acting as a watchpost and the surrounding lands farmed by serfs. Documents in the archives of the church of San Pietro clearly report that Emperor Frederick II set up camp just two miles from Perugia in 1235, near a castle known as Sansoste, on his way back from the Crusades. It appears he decided not to attack the city, finding it too well defended. From here the emperor made his way towards Germany to quash the rebellion instigated by his son, conquering a number of cities up through Italy.

Other documents indicate that a church, with possibly an inn opposite, existed on Via Pievaiola as early as 1337.

Church of San Sisto
This church, whose official denomination is San Sisto del Monte di Lacugnano, depended directly from the cathedral of San Lorenzo in Perugia and is the only church in the entire diocese to bear the name of Sixtus II, Pope from 257 to 258. Sixtus was martyred along with four of his deacons, among whom there was Lorenzo the patron of Perugia. The remains of the Pope were buried in the catacombs of St Callistus, in Rome, where there is still an epigraph dedicated to him. A bell with the inscription “1549 - Ave Maria” still hangs in the bell tower of this small church. A step at the lateral entrance of the church is also from the same period. During restoration works a 1300s fresco depicting the Madonna, St Sixtus and St Catherine of Siena was discovered by chance under a layer of whitewash. The fresco was detached, restored and is now visible in the new parish church built in 1981 near the cemetary. In 1581 the parish of San Sisto was combined with that of San Cristoforo di Lacugnano and only regained its autonomy on June 20th 1970, after four centuries. The Scuola Edile of Perugia restored the old parish church for the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the parish’s regained autonomy, returning it to its original appearance.

Why San Sisto?
The origins of the name San Sisto are still uncertain, although one can reasonaby reduce the hypotheses to three likely possibilities. 1) The name could be a derivation of the word “sosta” (stop), after the inn where travellers changed horses and rested that stood next to the church. 2) San Sisto could be a derivation of the Latin “sine hoste” (without enemy), after this area’s reputation for safety for travellers before reaching Perugia. A boundary stone opposite the church of Madonna Alta, along Via Pievaiola, bears the inscription “Sansoste” and would appear to confirm this possibility. 3) But the most likely version is that the place took its name from the church dedicated to St Sixtus. At the beginning of the 20th century there were only a few houses in the area that developed considerably in the 1960s when people from the countryside began to move towards the city.

After visiting San Sisto, those in need of sustenance should stop for some fish specialities at the Castello dell’Oca, Via Pievaiola - Perugia. Tel. (+39) 075.52.93.469. Closed Mondays.

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