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Thursday 30 March 2023
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The Old Town Centre and Environs

Veduta di Todi
Todi was founded by the Umbrians but came under the influence of Rome between the 5th and 4th century BC with the name of Tutere. Under the Romans Todi became first a municipium and then assumed the status of Colonia Julia Fida Tuder under the Empire, under the government of the Clustumina tribe.

During the 5th and 6th centuries AD the city suffered considerable from the conflict between Byzantines and Goths, which were followed by a succession of Longobard invasions until finally King Desiderius and Pope Paul I came to an agreement on the borders between the Duchy of Spoleto and the Papal States of Rome.

In the 12th century Todi proclaimed itself a free comune and joined the league of Guelph cities. The city was governed at first by consoli, then by a podestà (1201) and successively by a capitano del popolo (1255). In 1367 Todi lost its independence at the hands of Guillaume de Grimoard, the brother of Pope Urban V. A succession of aristocratic rulers governed the city from this moment onwards (the Malatesta of Rimini, Braccio di Fortebraccio da Montone, Francesco Sforza, the Anjou of Naples). The reforms introduced by Pope Martin V included Todi in the Papal States, under whose dominion it remained uninterruptedly – with the exception of a period of Napoleonic rule during which it controlled a sizeable “arrondissement” that included Amelia, Orvieto and even Acquapendente near Viterbo – until Italian unification.

Piazza del Popolo
The Umbrian and Etruscan settlement at Todi developed originally between two hills, that today are occupied respectively by the cathedral and the church of San Fortunato. The steep valley that divided the two hillocks was walled in with massive travertine buttresses by the Romans to support the artificially elevated Forum overhead and use the space beneath to build nine enormous intercommunicating cisterns under what is now Piazza del Popolo (formerly Piazza Grande).

The Umbrian-Etruscan fortifications of the city, also built in blocks of travertine, are still visible in more than one place. The Roman fortifications included a larger area and were followed by an even larger circle of Medieval walls erected in 1244. This last circle of walls is still largely intact, with its towers and three access gateways, Porta Romana, Porta Amerina or Fratta and Porta Perugina.

The road that encircles the walls of Todi leads to the church of Santa Maria della Consolazione. Work on the construction of this impressibe monument, which stands on the site of an intensely worshipped chapel, began in 1503 but was not completed until a century later. A host of illustrious names have been credited with the design of this building, including Bramante, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and Cola di Matteuccio da Caprarola. Recent documents indicate that the project was probably the work of Bramante. The building works certainly attracted an equally notorious array of collaborators, however, such as Peruzzi, Sanmicheli, Vignola, Galeazzo Alessi, Ippolito Scalza. The greek cross, Renaissance plan of the church features three polygonal apses and a semi-circular apse. 56 windows bring considerable light to the interior, which gains an added sense of loftiness from the high central dome. A fresco credited with miraculous powers hangs above the main altar. It depicts the 'Maestà and is 15th century, taken from the chapel that once stood on the same spot.

Palazzo del Capitano
Via della Consolazione leads up from here to the old town centre. The broad set of steps and terraced lawns to the right lead up to the church of San Fortunato. The church was built by the Lesser Franciscan friars and once belonged to the Vallombrosa order. A first phase of construction got underway between 1292 and 1328, with the completion of the choir and two of the four arcades. The second stage of building lasted from 1408 until 1464.

The poet and friar Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306), one of the first companions of St Francis, is buried in the crypt below.

The first circle of Roman city walls are clearly visible if one passes along the left side of the church, under the convent that stands behind the construction. The street that leads from Porta Libera ends at the public gardens in Piazza IV Novembre. The gardens stand on an area that was once occupied by the Rocca Albornoziana, built by order of Cardinal Albornoz 1373 after having razed to the ground the western district of Todi. In 1503 the fortress suffered the same fate at the hands of the local population.

Panorama diTodi
Back towards Porta Libera there is Porta Aurea and the Camuccia district, which occupies the area between the two circles of Roman fortifications – a mere 80 metres one from the other. The church of Santa Maria in Camuccia, composed of a 7th - 8th cenury construction beneath and a 13th century building above, stands on the main street of this area. The two columns at the entrance are Roman. The interior contains fine 14th and 15th century fresco decoration, but the most interesting element is certainly an extremely rare 12th century wooden statue of the 'Madonna with Child', similar to an 1198 piece currently in the Dahlem Museum of Berlin. The heads of the work were restored in the 16th or 17th century. The church also contains an interesting collection of Roman artefacts unearthed during excavations carried out here.

The street continues to Via Roma. To the right, after passing under Porta Catena starts the 13th century Borgo Ulpiano area that stretches until Porta Romana. To the right of this gate there is the church of San Nicolò de Criptis, founded by the Benedictines in the 12th century above what had been the cavea of the Roman amphitheatre and subsequently enlarged in the 14th century.

To the left of Porta Romana stands the church of San Filippo Benizi, founder of the Servi di Maria order, who died in 1285 in the fomer convent of the Serviti order that was given to the Sisters of Claire in 1595.
Outside Porta Romana stands the greek cross structure of the Chiesa del Crocifisso, built by order of Bishop Angelo Cesi in 1591-95 to a design by Valentino Martelli. The final stage of the works were carried out under the supervision of Ippolito Scalza.

Le Mura
Via Matteotti leads upwards to the centre from Porta Romana. Directly before Porta Marzia, turn right towards Piazza del Mercato Vecchio. The left hand section of the square is closed in by the arched remains of what must have been a magnificent Roman building. Known as i Nicchioni, the arches date from the 1st century AD and could have been either a facade for the supporting structures for the Forum above or the lower part of a temple that once looked onto the Forum. Medieval and Renaissance dwellings have since been erected over them. The remains of a Roman mosaic are visible in front of the arches. During the Middle Ages this was the square where the town marked was held.

The church of San Carlo stands immediately after the square. Originally consecrated to St Ilarius, mention of this church appears in records as early as 1118. No less than four bishops were present in 1249, when the church was renovated and reconsecrated. The Fonte Scarnabecco, a little further on, is a washing fountain built by the Scarnabecco podestà of Bologna in 1241 as part of a project to ensure that the city had sufficient water.

After the church of Santa Prassede, rebuilt in the 14th century, and the gate that bears the same name, the Borgo Nuovo quarter of Todi is built steeply downhill. The buildings of the monastery of the Sisters of Claire stands on the right. An interesting iconographic discovery was made here in 1975 when a 1346 fresco depicting sould in Purgatory was brought to light. This is one of the earliest known depictions of Purgatory and is taken from a vision received by the Irish bishop St Patrick.

Returning upwards towards Piazza del Popolo, Palazzo del Vignola stands on the right hand side of the street shortly before the Duomo. One of Italy's most important and established antiques fairs is held here each April.

The street continues, flanking the cathedral, and ends up in Piazza del Popolo, known also as Piazza Grande or Maggiore. This is the historic heart of Todi and one of the finest Medieval squares in Italy, surrounded on all sides by public buildings and the facade of the cathedral itself.

Cattedrale o Duomo dedicato a S. Maria Assunta
The cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is the oldest building in the square and was already the seat of the bishop of Todi in 1000AD. The broad flight of steps that lead up to the cathedral was built in the 18th century, while the construction that we see today dates from between the 12th and 14th century. The almost square facade is divided into three sections, each with its entrance and rose window above. The larger, central rose window, indicates that this is the main entrance. The latin cross interior, containing a number of interesting works of art, is divided into three naves, with an additional fourth nave added to the right hand side in the 14th century. The 'Madonna di Pian di Porto' painting is 13th century, while the painted Crucifix is by a late 13th century Umbrian painter. To the right of the baptismal font there is a fresco by Spagna of the Trinity (1525). The paintings on wood in the apse are also by Spagna. The inlaid wooden choir is by Sebastiano Bencivenga (1521-30). The large fresco depicting the Last Judgement on the rear wall of the facade is by Ferraù da Faenza (late 16th century.). The capitals of the columns that divide the naves, as well as those of the 12th century crypt, are worth a closer look.

A passageway on the left flank of the building leads through a doorway designed by Vignola (although modified in 1762) to the bishop's palace. This magnificent building was erected by order of Bishop Angelo Cesi in 1593. The interior is decorated with frescoes by Andrea Polinori and Ferraù Fenzoni (16th and 17th century.). The building opposite, designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger in the 16th century, is Palazzo Cesi, which functioned as the private residence of the bishops Paolo Emilio, Federico and Angelo Cesi.

Palazzo dei Priori con la Torre trapezioidale
Next door stands the unfinished Palazzo Atti (later Corsini), which belonged to the other leading family in Todi. Looking out over the square from the cathedral, to the left stands the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo. Built in 1291, the building rises above a lofty loggia on ground level, supported by a cental pillar. The fine three-mullioned windows on the first floor are Gothic.

A single flight of steps that cuts diagonally across the arches of the loggia, leads up to the first floor of both this building and the next door Palazzo del Podestà, or del Popolo. Built between 1214 and 1228, Palazzo del Podestà is one of the oldest buildings of its kind in Italy. The guelph crenellations are early 20th century additions. The ground floor is made up of a large chamber divided by two naves. Originally this would have been open on all four sides and used as a market. The first floor is occupied by the Sala delle Pietre (formerly the Sala del Consiglio Generale) and now houses the collection of Roman architectural fragments unearthed locally that make up the Museo Lapidario. The first floor of the adjacent Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo is taken up by the Sala del Capitano del Popolo, with a number of remnants of Medieval fresco work including a fine 14th century Crucifix. The third floor, added at the end of the 13th century, houses the Pinacoteca Civica and the Museo Etrusco-Romano.

The Pinacoteca contains a number of detached 14th and 15th century frescoes, along with church furnishings, 12th- 15th century examples of majolica, ceramic and goldwork. The collections of paintings housed here includes the 'Incoronation of the Virgin', by Giovanni di Pietro (known as lo Spagna, 1507-11).

The Museo Etrusco-Romano houses every day objects, coins and a variety of other material unearthed during archaeological digs carried out in the surrounding area.

il Teatro di Todi
The Palazzo dei Priori closes in the remaining section of the square. Built at the end of the 13th century, an extension was added to the right flank of the building between 1334 and 1337. The trapeze-shaped tower to the left of the building was erected between 1369 and 1385. The Renaissance windows were opened in the facade by order of Pope Leo X (1513). Initially, the building was the seat of the city's podestà. Later it was occupied by the priori, eventually becoming the headquarters of the Papal governor of the city.

In Piazza Garibaldi, opposite the Palazzo del Popolo, stands another Palazzo Atti (now Pensi), built in 1552 and initially the property of the same family that owned the other palazzo in the main square.
As well as hosting the Rassegna Antiquaria d’Italia, for some years now Todi has been organising the Todifestival in August-September, featuring international standard ballet, music, cinema and theatre. The Mostra nazionale dell’artigianato e del design takes place in September/October).

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