The Cathedral in Spoleto, with its marvelous façade, constitutes a sort of backdrop in Piazza Duomo, where it stands surrounded by numerous other buildings.
The cathedral was built in the 12th century on the remains of a previous religious building dedicated to St. Mary del Vescovado, which in turn was built on an older place of worship dedicated to the martyr Primianus. The St. Primiano Crypt, which can be accessed through the rectory, is dated to the 9th century and represents the only original portion of the ancient cathedral, rebuilt at the end of the 12th century.
The cathedral is flanked on the left by the imposing quadrangular bell tower and its façade has an elegant portico with five round arches supported by Corinthian columns, an admirable work of the master Ambrogio Barocci erected in 1492. The upper part is divided into two levels separated by a cornice supported by blind arches; the lower order is decorated with five beautiful rose windows, the larger central one is surrounded by the symbols of the four evangelists. The upper order has three rosettes and three ogival niches; the central one, of larger dimensions, is decorated by a beautiful mosaic depicting Christ enthroned between the Madonna and St. John the Evangelist. The decorative elements are further embellished by the use of blocks of pink and white local stone that enhance the architectural details.
Inside the space is divided into three naves with a central apse, and the plan is a Latin cross with a transept. The church contains numerous works of art by artists from different periods: the bronze bust of Urban VIII was done by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1640; the Cross painted with the icon of the living Christ (triumphans) is the work of Alberto Sotio from 1187; the series painted with stories of the Vergin, which decorates the central apse, was frescoed by Filippo Lippi between 1467 and 1469.
Finally, absolutely worthy of note are two chapels: the Chapel of the Most Holy Icon, where a 12th-century Byzantine tablet is preserved, which tradition says was donated to the city of Spoleto by Federico Barbarossa (Redbeard) as a sign of peace; and the Chapel of the Relics where one of the only two still existing letters signed by Saint Francis is kept. It is a small rectangular parchment (13 × 6 cm) made from goatskin, containing nineteen lines addressed to Fra Leone. The other signed letter is the so-called chartula, preserved in the Basilica in Assisi, which tradition says was written by Francesco in 1224, after he received the stigmatization on Mount Verna.
The inside of the building as it appears today is the result of a decisive seventeenth-century intervention that gave it a Baroque style.