The history of Massa Martana, which has very ancient origins, is connected in Roman times with the building of the Flaminian Way, the road that linked Rome to the Adriatic Sea and northeastern Italy. After the fall of the Roman Empire and the devastation wrought by the barbarian invasions, in the 7th-8th century it was part of the Lombard Duchy of Spoleto: the construction of the Massa Castle began in that period. Starting in about 1000 AD, Massa Martana came under the rule of various local noble families, the Church, and the town of Todi. In 1565, it obtained its long-desired independence by paying Todi the sum of 23,000 gold scudi, and with the protection of the College of Cardinals, it remained free until the creation of the Kingdom of Italy.
ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT
The historic center is situated within the castle walls, and has a number of fine buildings from the 16th and 18th centuries. The well-preserved entrance gate is decorated with carved stone and the town's coat of arms. Buildings of interest include the Church of San Felice, dedicated to the town's patron saint, the Church of San Sebastiano, with an excellent canvas from 1595 portraying a Madonna and Child Crowned with Angels Between St. Felix and St. Sebastian, and the 16th-century Town Hall. Just outside the center one comes to the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the Church of Santa Maria della Pace, the exterior of which is entirely faced with travertine. Nearby there are several unique, precious churches: the Church of Santa Maria in Pantano, one of the oldest and most interesting religious buildings in Umbria; the Church of Sant'Illuminata; the Abbey of Santa Maria in Viepri, built in 1150, which has preserved its original Romanesque appearance with a double sloping façade; the Abbey of San Faustino, built over the ruins of a Roman villa and the tomb of the saint by Benedictine monks in the 8th century; and the Abbey of SS. Fidenzio e Terenzio, dating from the 9th or 10th century, with an old, fascinating crypt. The area's great Roman monument is the Ponte Fonnaia, a bridge built in 220 BC on the ancient Flaminian Way. Near the bridge are the Christian catacombs, the only ones in Umbria, which contain over 300 burial vaults. Massa Martana's natural environment can be enjoyed by following the Martani Trekking paths, nature itineraries with facilities in the Monti Martani area, or by treating oneself to a stay at the San Faustino spa, which has waters with excellent therapeutic properties.