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Basilica of San Salvatore and the Monumental Civic Cemetery

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Inside Spoleto’s city cemetery, and unfortunately off the beaten tourist path and nearly forgotten, stands the Basilica of San Salvatore that the renowned Spoleto historian Giuseppe Sordini called “the greatest building in Spoleto from ancient times.”

In fact, although there are no historical documents to ascertain its exact origins but different hypotheses among scholars exist regarding dates, the Basilica is clearly a building from the Early Christian period, one of the rare and most important testimonies of religious architecture of the IV and V centuries.

UNESCO confirmed its importance in 2011 when it included the Basilica and the other buildings that make up the site in the text “The Longobards in Italy. The places of power (568-774 AD)” in their list of World Heritage Sites.

Over the centuries, various interventions have changed the appearance of the Basilica and its name has been changed various times as well. Originally linked to the cemetery cult, it appears to have been dedicated to the martyr saints Concordio and Senzia, to whom miracle-working virtues were attributed. In 815, a Longobard document mentions the building as dedicated to San Salvatore, a change likely decided by the dukes of that time. Subsequently, it was known as the Monasterium Sancti Concordii, and then in the sixteenth century, based on some frescoes on the internal walls of the apse that recalled the cult of the crucifix, it was called the Church of the Crucifix.

It was only in modern times when renovations were done in the 1900s that the basilica took on the final name of Basilica of San Salvatore.

The façade has three doors but only the center one gives access to the church. The other two had been walled up long before the latest renovations. Above the doors are three windows, the center one larger than the other two.

Inside, the space is divided into three naves separated by Doric columns and pillars that define seven bays. On the walls, although quite ruined, are the remains of precious frescoes dating back to the 12th-13th centuries depicting the Eternal Father, the Madonna among the Saints, and the Crucifixion.

The church today is not open for entry but visitors can look in from the entrance door.

Connected to the Basilica is the Monumental City Cemetery, designed in 1836 by the architect Ireneo Aleandri, who designed many other important buildings in town such as the Teatro Nuovo. Entrance to the cemetery is up a large staircase with two open areas that flank it used during funerals of well-known citizens. Although these were added later to Aleandri’s design, the structure respects his neoclassical style, all of which enhance the spectacular effect of the basilica.

Among the many monumental tombs, some that particularly stand out are those of the Antonelli, Bachilli and Sansi families, which have valuable monumental sculptures and decorative paintings.

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