Duomo di Santa Maria Assunta in cielo
Orvieto's Duomo cathedral fits in perfectly with the surrounding urban context, dominating the entire medieval village with its mass.
It is located on the eponymous square, which has been widened and reshaped over the centuries to give more room to the space surrounding the cathedral. Next to it are the Canons' lodges and the Torre di Maurizio tower.
The Cathedral represents the main attraction for the town of Orvieto, visited every year by many foreign and Italian tourists.
Its beauty arises not only from the works of art it contains, but also from its secular history, which has witnessed a multitude of important craftsmen, each of whom has left their mark in the building of the church. A wonderful synthesis of architecture, sculpture, decorative arts and painting, it is today considered to be a jewel of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
The cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption is in the centre of Orvieto. All the city's main streets converge towards the cathedral, the edification of which was seen by all as a token of divine protection.
Orvieto has embodied itself and its identity in this very important, yet familiar building. Indeed, in the medieval era, the city was characterised not only by its great economic and urban life, but also by a deep thrust of spiritual renewal, which found one of its most concrete manifestations in the building of the cathedral.
Pope Nicholas IV laid the first stone of the cathedral on 14 November 1290. The author of the original design is unknown, but believed by some to be Arnolfo di Cambio, and by others to be friar Bevignate of Perugia; what is known is that from 1310 onwards work was carried out under the direction of Lorenzo Maitani, who decisively shaped the evolution of the structure. After reaching piazza Duomo, you will be struck by the richness of the facade; the spires reaching to the heavens, the gold used to make the mosaics, the series of sculptures on the pillars, the elaborate rose window and the bronzed doors are awe inspiring. Such beauty is achieved through harmonious and balanced lines which tend to make the structure all the more fascinating. One is struck by a number of things when entering the cathedral. First of all is the two-tone marble which emphasises the entirety of the walls' and columns' mass. The space is solemn and grandiose, marked by the succession of high pillars which create an exceptional perspective aspect.
The numerous pictorial and sculptural works which one can admire along its walls and in its chapels makes the cathedral a veritable treasure trove of art.
The cathedral has a basilica layout with ten chapels decorated with windows made with alabaster slabs. The roof was entirely redone in the 19th century by Paolo Zampi and Paolo Cocchieri, both from Orvieto.
The right transept harbours the Cappella Nuova o di San Brizio chapel, a true masterpiece. Its walls are covered in frescoes by the painter Luca Signorelli, started in 1499 after Saint Angelico let the works go unfinished. The frescoes, on the walls and the vaults, have Judgement Day as their central theme. All the characters and episodes from this theme are present in the paintings here.
The apse also presents interesting frescoes decorating its walls, painted by Ugolino di Prete Ilario and Pietro Di Puccio with their Stories of the Virgin. Of particular beauty is the high window with its refined Gothic-type styling. Another exceptional masterpiece is the choir, decorated with precious carvings and sculptures.
The left transept features the cappella del Corporale chapel. Here the splendid Reliquary is kept, inside of which one can admire the Holy Linen, which was covered in Christ's blood during the miracle of Bolsena.
On the entrance walls to the chapel is the splendid organ, considered one of the greatest in Italy.
Alongside the baptismal fonts, on the left wall, a Madonna with Child, painted by Gentile da Fabriano in 1425, is still clearly visible.
Tradition has it that the church was erected to celebrate the Miracle of Bolsena. In 1263, a Bohemian priest, Peter of Prague, doubting the presence of Christ's body in the consecrated Host, saw drops of blood dripping from the Host onto the Corporale while celebrating the mass in the church of Santa Cristina in Bolsena. The Holy Linen, following the Pope's will, was taken to the city and exhibited to the people. Shortly after, the decision to build the cathedral dedicated to Mary was taken, to exhibit the miraculous artefact.
Useful information and advice
The Carta Orvieto Unica [Orvieto Integrated Ticket] is a pre-paid entrance ticket to the museums and monuments of the city of Orvieto.
Upon purchasing it the visitor will also receive a map of the city in order to easily find places to visit as well as information about the opening times of the monuments one can access with it. Furthermore, Carta Orvieto Unica includes an integrated bus and funicular ticket, to encourage tourists to leave their car outside of the historical centre and enjoy the slow rhythm of walking from one monument to the other. The ticket thus meets the needs of visitors to the city of Orvieto in accessing alternative mobility systems (escalators and funiculars).
It is recommended to reach the historical centre of Orvieto by funicular.