The train leaves Spoleto and moves northwards with views on the sources of the River Clitunno, a small stream celebrated by Virgil in his Georgicae, a poem dedicated to the pleasures of a rural lifestyle (Geor. 2. 146-48 - Translated by J. W. MacKail):
|hinc albi, Clitumne, greges et maxima taurus|
victima, saepe tuo perfusus flumine sacro,
Romanos ad templa deorum duxere triumphos.
|hence thy white flocks, Clitumnus, and the lordly victim bull, often bathed in thy holy stream,
lead on Roman triumphs to the gods' temples.
(above) View of Trevi and Pissignano from Rocca di Spoleto; (below-left) enlargement of Pissignano: the Clitunno flows near the chimney of an old factory; (below-right) Pissignano seen from nearby the river
Near the village of Pisignano at the foot of the hill that surrounds the plain there runs a plentiful spring out of four rivulets under a rock which immediately forms a little lake. Here the four rivulets being united send forth a large brook which afterwards forms a great many windings and contributes to the fertility and beauty of the valley. (..) From Pisignano to Spoleto it is seven miles through a plain and well inhabited country at the foot of the hills.
Thomas Nugent - The Grand Tour - 1749
One reason which explains why so many ancient and modern writers described the sources of the Clitunno lies in its location at the side of Via Flaminia which linked to Rome to Rimini.
There is a rising ground of moderate elevation, thickly shaded with ancient cypresses. At the foot of this, a fountain gushes out in several unequal veins, and having made its escape, forms a pool, whose broad bosom expands, so pure and crystal-like, that you may count small pieces of money that you throw in, and the shining pebbles. (..) Some parts of the banks are clothed with the wild ash, some with poplars, and the transparent river gives back the image of every one of them distinctly, as if they were submerged beneath its waters. The coldness of the water is equal to that of snow, and its colour nearly so. (..) Along the banks are a number of villas, to which the beauty of the stream has given birth.
Pliny the Younger - Letter to Romanus - translation by J. C. Eustace
In my way hence to Terni I saw the river Clitumnus, celebrated by so many of the Poets for a particular quality in its waters of making cattle white that drink of it. The inhabitants of that country have still the same opinion of it, as I found upon inquiry, and have a great many oxen of a whitish colour to confirm them in it. It is probable this breed was first settled in the country, and continuing with the same species, has made the inhabitants impute it to a wrong cause.
Joseph Addison - Remarks on several parts of Italy, in the years 1701, 1702, 1703
The Clitumnus still retains its ancient name, and recalls to the traveller's recollection many a pleasing passage in the poets, connecting the beauty of the scenery about him with the pomps of a triumph, and transporting him from the tranquil banks of the rural stream to the crowds of the forum, and the majestic temples of the Capitol. (..) The younger Pliny has given a lively and accurate description of this fountain, which the classical reader will prefer, no doubt, to the best modern picture.
John Chetwood Eustace - Classical Tour of Italy in 1802 (publ. 1813)
The river and an old mill seen from the temple (the location is referred to also as Campello sul Clitunno, because it belonged to the Campello family of Spoleto)
About 200 paces from this spring just by the high road there is a little temple of white marble of the Corinthian order. This river is generally supposed to be the Clitumnus of the antients. Nugent
The first stage from Foligno terminates at a place called Le Vene. Almost close to the post-house, on the northern side rises, on a steep bank, an ancient temple; and a little to the south of it, from various narrow vents or veins, gushes out a most plentiful stream of clear, limpid water, forming one of the sources of the Clitumnus. From these sources the place takes its name. Eustace
The "Temple" stands on a steep bank overlooking the little river, here still called Clitumno which has its source near this, the name Le Vene being derived from the numerous springs or vents of water by which it is formed.
Augustus J. C. Hare - Days near Rome - 1875
The little temple is said by some to have been consecrated to the God Clitumnus though it is now certain that it was built by a queen of the Goths that resided at Spoleto. Nugent
From Foligno to Vene, the road lies through this fine plain. A little before you come to the post-house at Vene, on the right hand, there is a little building; the front which looks to the valley, is adorned with six Corinthian pillars; the two in the middle enriched by a laurel foliage. (..) On this building, there are some inscriptions which mention the resurrection. Some, who think the architecture too fine for the first ages of Christianity, and the Temple too old to have been built since the revival of that art, have conjectured, that this little edifice is antique, and originally erected by the ancient inhabitants of Umbria, as a temple, in honour of the river God Clitumnus; but, at some subsequent period, converted into a Christian chapel, and the crucifix and inscriptions added after its consecration. Other very respectable judges think, the style of architecture is by no means pure, but adulterated by meretricious ornament, and worthy enough of the first ages of Christianity.
John Moore - View of Society and Manners in Italy (in 1775)
October 1786. San Crocefisso, a singular chapel on the road side, did not look, to my mind, like the remains of a temple which had once stood on the same site; it was evident that columns, pillars, and pediments had been found, and incongruously put together, not stupidly but madly.
Johann Wolfgang Goethe - Italian Journey - translation by Charles Nisbeth.
S. Salvatore aka S. Crocifisso is a rather large ancient church outside Spoleto, but Goethe's description fits the temple better because of the reference to its being located on the road side.
(left) Front of the temple; (right) detail of the columns (also in the image used as background for this page)
This temple consists of the cella and a Corinthian portico, supported by four pillars and two pilasters; the pilasters are fluted; two of the pillars are indented with two spiral lines winding round, and two ornamented with a light sculpture, representing the scales of fish. The inscription on the frieze is singular, "Deus angelorum, qui fecit resurrectione." (..) The walls are solid, the proportions beautiful, and the whole worthy the Romans, to whom it is ascribed. I am, however, inclined to think, that the portico has been altered or repaired since the construction of the temple, as it is more ornamented than the general form of the edifice would induce us to expect. Besides, the capitals of the pilasters differ from those of the pillars, a circumstance very unusual in Roman architecture. It is not improbable, that this temple suffered considerably before it was converted into a christian church, and that when repaired for that purpose, the ancient pillars, perhaps thrown into the river, might have been replaced by columns from the ruins of the various other fanes, which, as Pliny informs us, were interspersed up and down the sacred grove, around the residence of the principal divinity. Eustace
The sculpture of the columns. (..) Palladio calls it most delicate and beautifully various and if what appears in his drawings vine leaves, be in reality, (..) fish scales, the workmanship may have some allusion to the river god.
John Cam Hobhouse - Italy; Remarks made in several visits, from the year 1816 to 1854
The two dark columns are dated Augustan age, the other two columns and the side pilasters are dated IInd century AD. Today the whole "temple" is assumed to have been built as a Christian chapel between the Vth and the VIIth century.
Illustration from "Ridolfino Venuti (a learned antiquarian and a honorary member of the Society of Antiquaries of London) - Osservazioni sopra il fiume Clitunno - published in 1753" (drawn by Richard Wilson, engraved by Giuseppe Vasi); it shows the temple after the columns of the two small side porticoes were taken away
Palladio saw this
temple entire, and made five designs of it.
What remains, which is only the western portico and the exterior of the cell, is certainly a
part of the temple seen by him. In 1730 it
was intrusted to a brother Hilarion who, under
the pretext of repairing it, made a bargain with
Benedetti bishop of Spoleto, to furnish him
with a portion of the columns and marbles for
three and twenty crowns. The community of
Pissignano opposed this spoliation for some
time, and an order was even procured from
Pope Clement XII to prevent it. But Monsignore Ancajani, then bishop of Spoleto, confirmed
the sale, laughed at the injunction, and said
the marbles were but old stones; consequently
the hermit, brother Paul, who had been left by
Hilarion, demolished great part of
the porticoes, and sold four of the columns for
eighteen crowns to the Signori Fontani of
Spoleto, who used them in building a family
chapel in the Philippine church of that town.
Hobhouse, based on Venuti's account of the events. He was a friend of Lord Byron and he wrote his book as a commentary to Childe Harold's Pilgrimage - Canto IV
(left) Entrance to the cell of the temple/church (most likely the original portal was robbed with other marbles in the XVIIIth century); (right) altar making use of Roman materials of the Augustan age
The Temple of Campello sul Clitunno is of Classical
Roman type and has sculpted ornamentation copied from
ancient buildings in a synthesis such as that reprised by
Palladio. It is a small sacellum in the form of a tetrastyle
Corinthian temple with two porticos in antis. It is one of the
rare examples of an epigraphic monument of the early
Middle Ages. The inscription in Roman capitals is a
dedication to God. The interior painted decoration is
remarkable and can be compared to the frescoes of Santa
Maria Antiqua in Rome. UNESCO - Brief synthesis of the universal value of the temple which was included in the World Heritage List in 2011 with other Longobard monuments in Italy (e.g. S. Salvatore at Spoleto, Tempietto Longobardo at Cividale, S. Giulia at Brescia and S. Sofia at Benevento).
Spoleto was the capital of a large Longobard Duchy which was founded in ca 576. The town retained a major importance until the annexation of Umbria to the Italian Kingdom in 1860.
(left) Interior of the lower floor with evidence of frescoes (it is smaller than the upper one); (right) one of the two side entrances which in origin were preceded by a small portico
Underneath is a vault or crypta: the entrance is on the side as the portico hangs over the river. Eustace
In 1748 the brother Paul looking for a fancied treasure, broke his way through the interior of the chapel, and tore up part of the subterranean cell, of which pious researches there are the marks at this day. Whatever remained of marble in the inside of the structure was then carried away, and it was with much difficulty that the remaining portico was saved from the hands of the hermit. Hobhouse from Venuti's account
Decoration of the rear side which is very similar to that on the front
one side, is a crucifix in basso relievo, with
vine branches curling around it. Moore
The reader must not believe that various other doors and fašades of churches at or near Spoleto are coeval with S. Saviour's (VIth century) with a cross in the centre, from which is developed a rich decoration of spirals, flowers, and rosettes, because, with the sole exception of a frieze on the tympan of the temple of Clitumnus, they are neither more nor less than works in imitation of those of the thirteenth century.
Raffaele Cattaneo - Architecture in Italy from the sixth to the eleventh century - 1896
In the floor of the upper section: Roman funerary inscription, relief (perhaps part of a lintel) and another decorated stone which were used as building materials
In its current aspect without the two small side porticoes, the building calls to mind some tombs in Rome (e.g. Sepolcro di Annia Regilla) and even more some Roman mausoleums in western Cilicia in Turkey.
Move to Trevi.