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St Fortunato: Church and Bell Tower

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St. Fortunato Church or temple is placed nearby the Rocca, inside the ancient acropolis of the town. The current building witnesses its numerous building stages: from the oldest Etruscan-Roman stage – which the lions placed at the entrance and two capitals turned into holy water stoup remain from – to the first Romanic one dated approximately 1198 and accomplished by the Vallumbrosan Monks, up to the final Gothic structure, which building works started in 1292 and finished two centuries later.

The facade represents significant evidence of such intervention. It stands out on the monumental staircase, which remained incomplete because of the death of master Giovanni di Santuccio da Firenzuola in 1458. He was working at the project together with his nephew, Bartolo d’Angelo. The recurring wars against the nearby communes, first of all against Orvieto, drained the public treasury then, leaving the Church without the necessary funds to finish the works.

The facade lower level is structured in three parts corresponding to the three internal aisles provided with entrance gates. The central is the most interesting one. Precious spiral columns and bas-reliefs depict, from left to right, the twelve Apostles, some Saints (such as Degna, Romana and Cassiano whose remains are enshrined in the Church), angels, Biblical prophets, St. Fortunato, St. Francis’ stigmata, the Annunciation and Isaac’s sacrifice, all surrounded by flowery motifs such as the vine, as an emblem of Good, and the fig, as a symbol of Evil, but also the dragon and the snake as emblems of sin.

Inside the Church, three aisles of the same height structure the space. The lateral ones are slightly narrower than the central one, according to Hallenkirche (Hall Church) transalpine model. The elegant ribbed columns support the cross vaults under which, thirteen elevated chapels open up, on the sides of the aisles. The fourth chapel, on its right side, houses a fragment of the Virgin with Child and Angels by Masolino da Panicale (1432), whereas, the fifth one on the left shields some remains of frescoes with scenes of St. John Baptist’s life, by Giotto’s school.

St. Fortunato’s statue stands out at the centre of the building. The walnut choir with amazing inlay works made by Antonio Maffei da Gubbio in 1590 covers the whole central apse and stands in the background.

Finally, the crypt under the altar houses a single monumental sarcophagus enshrining the remains of Sts. Cassiano, Callisto, Fortunato, Romana and Degan, whereas the adjacent sacristy has housed Jacopone da Todi‘s grave since 1432.

The tower bell is accessible through the sacristy. From there you can enjoy a 360 degree view of the whole town.

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