Chiesa di Santa Maria della Consolazione
The church/temple of Santa Maria is found immediately outside the thirteenth century wall of the inhabited city centre, in the south-west part of Todi, along Viale della Consolazione. Its peripheral position gave the advantage of presenting the city with a prestigious building which was visible from afar. The church's construction with a central layout was due to typically Renaissance ideals which saw spatial perfection, balance, and unity.
We recommend a visit in September because the 8th of the month is when the town celebrates Santa Maria della Consolazione with a festival. This is an important moment, even for citizens who live outside the city and religious ceremonies in memory of the Nativity of the Virgin, games, fayres and the traditional evening fireworks display take place.
The church of Santa Maria della Consolazione is one of the greatest examples of Renaissance art present in Umbria.
The church's central layout is a Greek cross with four apses, three of which are polygonal and one, at the northern end, which is semi-circular. Each apse is made up of two orders of Corinthian pillars. Above, there are refined windows made to the design of Valentino Martelli, 1587.
At the intersection, a streamlined dome sits on four angular pillars with crests and arches decorated in relief.
You can access the church through three doors, the eastern one, which is Baroque dating from the seventeenth century, the southern one dating from 1713 and the western one designed by Luigi Poletti in 1846.
The external part has a double order of pilasters and small Corinthian columns, placed at the edges, joined to bases and winged cornices.
The upper order, contrary to the rigid lower part, has windows with alternating triangular and curved windows. Above the cornices there are four eagles, the symbol of the city of Todi, the work of Antonio Rosignoli.
The interior is bright, with the architectonic elements which subdivide the spaces being of a light coloured stone.
The church was built to guard a Marian icon to which the population of Todi attributed great thankfulness and this is still conserved in the Baroque altar of the north apse.
The building was constructed with stones both from the demolition of the rock and from the travertine caves of Titignano, on a design by Bramante, although the work was started and done by others.
Attribution to the Renaissance artist is still underway although documents from 1500 and 1600 indicate he is the author of the project.
Works began on 15 November 1508, on a pre-existing fifteenth century chapel and it took one hundred years to be completed.
The construction was directed by Cola di Matteuccio da Caprarola until 1512; various master craftsmen, architects and sculptors followed until its completion in 1607.
Many famous architects of that time were consulted, including Baldassarre Peruzzi and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, pupils and collaborators of Bramante. Successively also Alessi, Vignola and Ippolito Scalza.
Various artists carried out the internal decoration, including Filippo Meli to decorate the archivolts, Giovan Battista Gardona da Ligornetto and Francesco Casella for the crests. Andrea Polinori designed the upper altar which was sculpted by Angelo Pieri in 1612.
In 1613, a sacristy was inserted on the northern side which was then knocked down in fury by the people in 1862, after the Unification of Italy as it was not considered to be in harmony with the solemnity and purity of the lines of the church.
Legend says that the church was born due to the will of the people. It is said that a worker, blind in one eye, maybe a certain Iole di Cecco, carrying out the Commune's order to clear away the brambles in the area near the doors of Santa Margherita and San Giorgio, the place where the church now stands, had cleaned the dust from the face of the Virgin Mary on a roadside shrine covered by scrub. By then wiping his face and eyes with this same handkerchief, he miraculously regained his sight. Thus after the event it was decided to build a church to celebrate the miraculous icon.
Information and useful advice
It is easy to get to Todi by car. Via the motorway del Sole, take the Valdichiana exit if you are coming from the north and the Orte exit if you are coming from the south. Continue on the E45 towards the Todi exit.
Umbria's Railway, La Ferrovia Centrale Umbra has a regional train which connects Todi with various locations in Umbria including the centre of Perugia, Perugia Ponte San Giovanni and Terni. Connections from the latter are available to the rest of Italy using the National Railway, the Ferrovie dello Stato.
Todi is 49 km from Umbria's International Airport of Sant'Egidio. This is connected to Milan Malpensa airport with two flights every day.