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Terni is a city of Italy, in the ecclesiastic State and province of Umbria. (..) The town is populous and well built; and is also a bishop's see suffragan of Rome, It has a very brisk trade in oil of olives, with which the country abounds, and is famous also for pidgeons.
Thomas Nugent - The Grand Tour - 1749
Terni Oct. 27, 1786. The little town lies in the midst of a rich country, (for taking a circuit round the city I explored it with pleasure,) at the beginning of a beautiful plain which lies between two ridges of lime-stone hills. Terni, like Bologna, is situated at the foot of the Apennine mountain range. (..) They are now beginning to gather the olives. It is done here with the hand, in other places they are beat down with sticks. If winter comes on before all are gathered, the rest are allowed to remain on the trees till spring. Yesterday I noticed, in a very strong soil, the largest and oldest trees I have ever yet seen.
J. W. Goethe - Italian Journey - translation by Charles Nisbet
Medieval Terni was surrounded by XIVth century walls; it had four gates of which only two still exists.
(left): Torre Barbarasa; (centre) Torre Castelli; (right) tower near Porta Spoletina
I wandered round the town, a stirring place with about 9000 inhabitants, fairly clean, and where the Renaissance has almost superseded the ancient baronial architecture of medieval times.
Ferdinand Gregorovius - An excursion through Sabina and Umbria in 1861 - Transl. by Dorothea Roberts
According to the "History of Terni" which was written in 1643 by Francesco Angeloni, a local historian and collector of antiquities, some 300 towers characterized the medieval skyline of Terni, but already at his time only a few had not been reduced in height or pulled down. The Barbarasa and the Castelli were noble families of Terni.
S. Salvatore is a very old church where according to tradition Pope Zacharias and the Longobard King Liutprand met in 744 and signed an agreement which enlarged the Papal possessions. It has a circular hall which was thought to have been a temple to the Sun, but which today is dated VIIIth century. Other parts including the fašade were added in the XIIIth century.
S. Francesco and its bell tower
The church was founded in 1265: it consisted of the nave (the aisles were added in the XVth century). In 1223 St. Francis visited Terni and at Greccio, a nearby village, he prepared the first crib to celebrate Christmas. The elegant bell tower was built in 1445.
S. Francesco: (left) Cappella Paradisi, a local wealthy family; (right) detail of the Last Judgement portraying the Apostles, the Blessed and St. Michael the Archangel
The Church of S. Francesco has a chapel with some interesting frescoes (c. 1475) attributed to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo, an admirable though little-known master, whose principal works are at Perugia.
Augustus J. C. Hare - Days near Rome - 1875
Today the frescoes of Cappella Paradisi are attributed to Bartolomeo di Tommaso da Foligno, another Umbrian painter and are dated first half of the XVth century.
Museum of Terni: (left) altarpiece from S. Francesco; (right) detail showing Infant Jesus with a coral necklace
Branches of coral, hung at the neck of infants, are thought to act as a preservative against danger.
Pliny the Elder - Natural History - Book XXXII:11 - Transl. by John Bostock and H.T. Riley
The painter of this fine triptych was identified with certainty in 1987 when a 1483 document was discovered in the municipal archives which indicated that the Franciscans had commissioned the altarpiece to Piermatteo d'Amelia, an Umbrian painter who mainly worked at Orvieto and Rome.
Museum of Terni: (left) Madonna and Child with St. Peter and Pope St. Anacletus (ca 1400) by a local painter; (right) Crucifix on a frescoed background
Pope Saint Anacletus (or Cletus) is usually thought to have been the third Bishop of Rome in 80-92, but he was portrayed as a XIVth century pope. The painting comes from a small church of Terni which was dedicated to him.
The wooden Crucifix is dated XVth century whereas the frescoed background (early XVIth century) is attributed to Giovanni di Pietro, lo Spagna. It depicts the Virgin and Sts. Mary Magdalene, Francis and John the Evangelist, with an image of San Francesco at Assisi behind the last two saints. See similar composite works at Acquapendente, Lanuvio and Rome.
Frescoes: (left) at S. Maria del Monumento and (right) outside the Town Hall
The fresco at S. Maria del Monumento portrays an apparition of the Virgin Mary to a little boy in an olive grove near Assisi which is depicted at the top of a hill. The event occurred in 1399 and the fresco was made a few years later by a local painter.
The two rather merry angels carrying a spear and a sponge at the side of a cross were painted in the XVIIth century, perhaps because public executions took place in the square of the Town Hall and those sentenced to death could see the symbols of the Crucifixion and repent of their sins. See a similar depiction of angels at Palazzo Altemps in Rome.
Many important palaces prove it to be the residence of rich and important families, while its political situation makes it rather a lively place just now. Being larger than Narni - nearly as large as Spoleto - it possesses a good deal of importance. Gregorovius
The Spada held several important positions in Terni. Their palace was built in the XVIth century and it was located in a very central position. In 1632 Cardinal Bernardino Spada bought an existing palace in Rome and turned it into one of the most elaborate and elegant buildings of Rome.
Palazzo Mazzancolli is an older building with a more medieval appearance. Ludovico Mazzancolli was Bishop of Terni for 51 years (1402-1458) and other members of the family held important positions in the government of the town.
Renaissance portals: (left) Palazzo Pierfelici; (right) Palazzo Gigli Corradi-Maroni with the inscription "Vita vigilia est" (To be alive is to be watchful - Pliny the Elder - Preface to Historia Naturalis)
Some historical palaces have been greatly modified but retain some elements of their original design. In 1597 Lucantonio Gigli was appointed Bishop of Paso in partibus infidelium, i.e. Paphos on Cyprus. The island had been conquered by the Ottomans in 1571, but the appointment testifies to the importance of the Gigli.
Cathedral (S. Maria Assunta): (left) fašade; (right) details of the XIIth century portal (the image used as a background for this page shows another medieval relief in the historical centre of the town)
Terni is the seat of a very ancient bishopric, but the dull Cathedral of S. Maria Assunta was designed by Bernini. Hare
The medieval church was enlarged in the XVIth century and redesigned in 1653, but the involvement of Gian Lorenzo Bernini is not documented. Its current fašade reflects the addition of the balustrade and of eight statues of bishops which was made in 1932-1937. It now resembles the fašade of SS. Apostoli in Rome. The bell tower was erected in 1743.
Modern steel monuments: (left) Light Spear Obelisk by Arnaldo Pomodoro (completed in 1995); (right) late XIXth century centrifuges for sugar factories
Terni has a more thriving and progressive look than most Italian towns. There are some iron works here, employing about one hundred and fifty persons, mostly French.
George Stillman Hillard - Six Months in Italy in 1847-1848
At the time the manager of the iron foundry was FÚlix Gauthier, a French engineer, who upgraded it to modern industrial standards.
At Terni the marvels of Nature have been transformed into the marvels of electricity without changing the face of the landscape. For the Velino, the swift black river which has its source deep in the mountains of the Abruzzi, and hurls itself in three gigantic columns over a precipice 600 feet high, takes to the mills of Terni an electric current which does the work of 200,000 horses without speeding the placid Nar as it washes the fantastic Gothic walls of Interamna. There are few waterfalls so unspoiled as Terni. The immense power-station is almost out of sight, and though the leafy valley which excited the admiration of the younger Pliny is blocked at various points by great factories, there is not a single cafe or restaurant to mar the savage splendour of the Cascate delle Marmore.
Olave Muriel Potter - A Little Pilgrimage in Italy - 1913
XVIIth century church of S. Andrea which has not been reconstructed to keep it as a memorial of the bombings of Terni during WWII
Terni became a flourishing industrial district towards the end of the XIXth century; dams built on the Nera and its tributaries provided sufficient hydroelectric power to support the development of large steel and chemical factories. During the Fascist government (1922-1943) medieval Terni was turned into a modern town with little respect for its historical monuments; it became a military objective during WWII because of its factories and it was heavily bombed: these events and the hasty post-war reconstruction explain why the few remaining old buildings are placed in a modern environment.
(left and centre) outer and inner gates at Porta Sabina; (right) bell tower of S. Maria Maggiore
On the right, a little before we came to Terni, appears the village Collicipoli (the ancient Collis Scipionis), and on a height Torre Majore a kind of observatory, where the learned Jesuit father Boscovich had geometrical instruments, in order to take the heights of the lands between Rome and Rimini.
Anna Miller - Letters from Italy - 1771
While Terni has lost its medieval appearance nearby Collescipoli (a mere three miles from Terni) entirely retains its old historical centre. The wealthiest families and the bishops of Terni had a summer residence in this burg located on the top of a hill (Colle = hill, the reference to Scipio is undocumented), where they escaped the town's sultry weather.
Collescipoli is still surrounded by walls and its two gates have not been modified. The tall bell tower of S. Maria Maggiore, its main church, protected one of the gates.
S. Maria Maggiore: Renaissance portal and details of its decoration
The portal was made in 1515 and it reflects the impact that the discovery of the grotesque frescoes of Domus Aurea had on Italian Renaissance. Even though the portal was that of an important church it was decorated with mermaids, tritons and satyrs.
S. Maria Maggiore: interior: (left) pulpit; (right) Jesus and Sts. Anthony the Great, John the Evangelist, Sebastian and Roch inside a rich stucco frame
S. Maria Maggiore was regarded by the bishops of Terni as a sanctuary and they enriched it with high quality stucco decorations and paintings in the last two decades of the XVIIth century.
S. Nicol˛: XVIIth century linen tablecloth
"Comic strips were known also in the XVIIth century": a linen tablecloth in S. Nicol˛ seems to support this statement. The design is definitely naive with a very unusual bold directness in portraying episodes from Genesis and the life of Mary.