The majestic Abbazia dei Santi Severo e Martirio, commonly known as La Badia, stands about 3 km from the town in a southerly direction, on the road leading to Porano, not far from Rupe di Orvieto. The earliest buildings in the complex date back to the 6th century when the Lombard noblewoman Rotruda had the Abbey built near a small church dedicated to San Silvestro. Tradition has it that after the death of San Severo, the noblewoman extended her hand to touch the coffin, but it remained imprisoned until she vowed to build a church dedicated to the saint in the same spot. The complex was therefore built and named after Severo and his disciple, San Martirio.
As for documentary evidence, the monastic complex was well known as early as 1055 and remained so until 1221 when it was occupied by Benedictine monks.
After the monks rebelled against the Bishop of Orvieto, Pope Honorius III chased the Order from the Abbey and replaced it with the reformed Benedictine monks of the Premonstratensian or Norbertine Order, after their founder Norbert, canon of Xanten and archbishop of Magdeburg.
Under order of the latter, a large refectory, cloister and Chapter hall – all still well preserved – were added to the pre-existing church, monastery and beautiful twelve-sided bell tower.
Overall, the complex is composed of imposing buildings attributable to different eras, which have been modified over time both from an architectonic and functional point of view.
The original church, Oratorio and Campanile (Bell Tower) – which has become a symbol of the entire complex – are all definitely worth seeing.
Dating back to the 12th century, the church still boasts a wonderful Cosmatesque floor and a stone altar embellished with a bas-relief frontal, dating back to Roman times. Accessible from an elegant portal with a pointed arch, it has a single nave on two floors: the upper is dedicated to the choir, the lower to the vestibule.
A peculiarity of the church is the small apse at the back which enabled the abbot to follow the services. This was not actually an entirely new architectural expedient in the city. Other examples can be found in the churches of Santo Stefano and Santa Mustiola in Orvieto and San Bartolomeo in Morrano.
Another very special atmosphere can be felt in the Oratorio del Crocifisso next to the entrance to the complex. This immense hall is decorated with precious frescos from the 13th century, the most important representing the Crucifix among the Saints Mary Magdalene, Agostino, Severo, Giovanni, Elisabetta, Battista and Martirio. The hall was used as a refectory in the original structure.
Finally, the majestic and unusual bell tower deserves a special mention, with its spectacular twelve-sided construction. From a stylistic point of view, the tower seems to fit in with the earliest buildings in the monastic complex (12th century) and presents a first series of double lancet windows while later an order of single-lancet windows were added and a crenelated cornice. The bell housed there was called ‘Viola’ due to its soft tones.
Today the privately owned Abbey has been transformed into luxurious accommodation, where some spaces have been used as rooms for guests, while others, such as the tower and other rooms of the medieval complex, can be visited freely.