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The cathedral of Spoleto was built at the end of the XIIth century on an existing Roman terrace in the upper part of the town. It was consecrated in 1198 by Pope Innocent III. The cathedral is a sort of summary of Italian art as its original Romanesque structure was modified through the centuries. In particular in 1644 Luigi Arrigucci, architect of the Papal State, renovated the interior and built the dome: this explains why there is so little consistency between the shape of the fašade and that of the interior.
On the other side of the castle stands, on a lower level,
the Cathedral of S. Maria Assunta. (..) It is in
the transition style. In the gabled west-front are eight rose
windows. Between these, a mosaic (..) represents Christ throned between
the Virgin and St. John.
Augustus J. C. Hare - Days near Rome - 1875
The upper part of the fašade retains its original decoration with the symbols of the Evangelists and a fine Cosmati decoration.
Cathedral: Renaissance portico
The beautiful renaissance portico, with five
arches, a rich frieze, and a stone pulpit at either end, is the
work of Bramante. Hare.
The portico was added towards the end of the XVth century and today it is not attributed to Bramante: on the sides there are two elegant pulpits: they did not serve only a religious purpose, as they were used also during the public assemblies which were held in the square in front of the cathedral: for this reason the large street leading to it is called Via dell'Arringo (harangue).
Cathedral: apse painted by Filippo Lippi
The interior is modernized. (..) In the
choir are the frescoes on which Lippi was occupied at his death. At the sides of the Death of the Virgin, the Annunciation and the Nativity are depicted. (..) In the roof of the apse the Coronation of the Virgin is represented, surrounded by angels, prophets, and sibyls. Hare
The Baroque renovation of the interior was careful not to damage the large frescoes which are the last work of Filippo Lippi (1406-1469), one of the main Florentine painters of the XVth century.
(left) S. Maria della Manna d'Oro; (right) Palazzo Arroni and details of its graffiti
Spoleto has other interesting Renaissance monuments: both S. Maria della Manna d'Oro and Palazzo Arroni were built in the XVIth century: according to the tradition the graffiti of Palazzo Arroni were painted by Giulio Romano (1499-1546), a pupil of Raphael.
(left): Cathedral: inscription celebrating Pope Urban VIII Barberini; (centre) the Barberini bee in the cathedral; (right) fountain in Piazza del Mercato
Spoleto was one of the main towns of the Papal State: its bishop was often a cardinal. Pope Leo XII belonged to an important family of Spoleto. Pope Urban VIII was celebrated by a large inscription in the cathedral and his bees decorate the pillars: his coat of arms appears also on a fountain in the market square which was built at a later stage: the clock has the shape of a sun, another heraldic symbol of the Pope (you may wish to see another Baroque fountain in Spoleto).
(left) Tabernacle by Benedetto da Rovezzano in S. Gregorio Maggiore; (centre) Cosmati pavement in the cathedral; (right) coat of arms of Pope Pius VII in Palazzo Arcivescovile
(left) Roman structures in Via di Spagna; (centre) coat of arms of the Orsini; (right) a madonnella
S. Giacomo di Spoleto
The plan devised by Cardinal Gil de Albornoz to restore the papal authority was not limited to building fortresses to control the insubordinate towns of the Papal State: he wanted to have a grip on the countryside too: for this reason he forced the farmers in the valley to live in fortified villages. S. Giacomo, one of these villages, a few miles north of Spoleto, retains the rectangular structure of its old fortifications, with high towers at each corner.
The image in the background of this page shows a relief near the cathedral portraying a knight, symbol of Spoleto.