Interior of the Bortolotti Auditorium in Narni with rows of red seats arranged symmetrically, stone walls, a vaulted ceiling with ribbed vaults, and a wooden walkway on the upper floor that runs along both sides of the hall. In the background, a large wooden door and partially visible frescoes adorn the wall.

Bortolotti Auditorium (Former Church of San Domenico) – Narni

The building is located in the historic center of Narni and is the final destination of the suggestive tour of the underground complex of Narni Sotterranea.

Erected in the 12th century on a Byzantine building, the cathedral was consecrated by Pope Eugene III. In 1304, it was assigned to the Dominican friars and included in a larger convent complex.

Before becoming the current municipal auditorium that hosts concerts, exhibitions, and theatrical performances every year, it experienced various ups and downs. It suffered the Sack of the Lansquenets, was used as a barracks by Napoleonic troops, was requisitioned in 1867 by the Italian State which definitively deconsecrated it, and finally became a warehouse and garage during World War II.

After a long period of abandonment, thanks to restoration works started in the 1970s, the structure was transformed into an art gallery and later became the current Bortolotti Auditorium.

The exterior

The majestic building features a tall bell tower and a basilica-style facade with a heterogeneous appearance, a result of the many transformations it has undergone over the centuries. The splendid entrance portal, dated to the Romanesque period, has a richly decorated marble frame, including bas-reliefs depicting male busts, the twelve apostles, surrounded by vegetal scrolls.

The large window, placed on the facade instead of a mosaic-decorated trifora, dates back to the 16th-17th centuries. Traces of the latter, typical of Narnian architecture, are still visible above the portal. Below the window is a long transverse frame with masks serving as caryatids. Above the frame, at its extremities, two lions have been placed in the wall as decoration, a motif also present in other buildings in the city. An example is the stone lion kept in the courtyard of the municipal palace, found around 1930 and probably dating back to the Roman era. The same animal, symbol of courage and vigilance, forms the body of the griffin, the emblem of the city.

The interior

The interior of the former church is divided by pillars into three naves with side chapels, the latter built in the 15th century and belonging to some of Narni’s most notable families, including the Gattamelata and the Arca.

A fine carved marble tabernacle is placed at the last left pillar, possibly a work of the school of Agostino di Duccio.

The walls feature frescoes dating from different periods, from the 13th to the late 16th century, including a significant depiction of Saint George on the counter-facade. The works are attributed to the Master of the Dormitio, including a Crucifixion and decorations with Saints, as well as a fresco with Madonna between Saints Dominic and Thomas, from the late 15th century and attributed to Pier Matteo d’Amelia or his school.

The church also housed a fine Annunciation by Benozzo Gozzoli, which can now be admired in the Pinacoteca of Palazzo Eroli.

Recent excavations have uncovered the remains of the ancient Romanesque apse, located at the end of the central nave, and the crypt, both dating back to the 12th century. The excavations have also brought to light a significant portion of the 6th-century Byzantine mosaic floor.

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