What has always uniquely characterized Orvieto is the harmony of the surrounding countryside with the tufaceous rock plateau on which this medieval gem sits:
The thunderous action of an ancient volcano gave birth to Orvieto perched on the lava rock spewed out of that volcano which is now the nearby Lake Bolsena.
This tufaceous rock rising in the middle of the countryside -not far from the valley where the Paglia River flows – must have immediately assured security to those first choosing this area for habitation.
Certainly inhabited as of about the 9th-c B.C. by a Villanovan (early Iron Age) community, the town – of a multiethnic population – flourished in the 8th-7th c. B.C. due to its domination of the river communications linking the area to Rome. As of the 6th-c B.C. with the Etruscans – undisputed masters of Central Italy for about six hundred years – the prestige and splendor of the ancient town reached its peak as probable seat of the league of the federation of twelve Etruscan city states.
Discovered in the 19th-c., the Necropoli del Crocefisso del Tufo stretches out below the volcanic rock rupe, a silent memorial to ancient Velzna’s townspeople.
I was curious about the appellation “of the Crucifix” for a 6th-c B.C. Etruscan necropolis but I knew whom to ask for clarification: our daughter-in-law, Francesca, orvietana and art historian impassioned of the art and history of her Orvieto. Francesca, in fact, had written a paper some years ago on the only Orvieto church carved into the rupe (the volcanic rock plateau) – and not far from the necropolis – called “la Chiesa del Crocefisso nel Tufo“ (“the Church of the Crucifix in the Tuff”). Legend dates its founding to the 6th-c A.D. but a local historian affirms the tiny church as a place of local veneration in the early 17th-c.
Over two hundred “chamber” tombs – most destined to individual families – line up in a network of sepulchral lanes. Most tombs bear the Etruscan family name that can still be seen on the architrave over the entrance.
This whimsical 6th-c B.C. uguentario – now in Orvieto’s Museo Archeologico Nazionale – was found in one of these tombs, perhaps the tomb of an athlete who kept his oils or muscle massages in this container. Or perhaps the tomb of an Etruscan lady whose perfumes and oils were stored in this bird-shaped vessel:
Each tomb was sealed with a massive tuff slab and then buffered with tuff blocks.
And these splendid exemplars of skilled Etruscan potters – now in Orvieto’s Museo Faina – were probably found in this necropolis:
These Etruscan museums are in noble palazzi on the main square, near Orvieto’s splendid cathedral:
The Museo Faina is just across the street from the Duomo (cathedral):
The Faina family moved into the palace in the 19th-century, with remodeling requested by owner Count Claudio Faina, Senior. The medieval palace had been home to the Monaldeschi family, powerful noble Orvieto family, aligned with the Guelphs (those supporting the Papacy) and in violent conflict with the rivaling Ghibelline (those supporting feudal authority) Filippeschi family from the 13th to 15th centuries.
The Perugia painter, Annibale Angelini, and his assistants were commissioned for the mid-19th-century tempera decoration in the neo-renaissance, neo-Baroque style so in vogue in Rome and area.
That 19th-c vaulted-ceiling splendor seems a colorful canopy spreading out over the Faina Foundation Etruscan collection displayed in the palazzo rooms:
The Fondazione per il Museo “Claudio Faina” was instituted in 1957 in order to preserve the Etruscan collection of the Faina family – one of Italy’s most important collections.
Count Claudio Faina who had inherited the collection from his father, Eugenio, had decided to donate the collection – as well as all the family’s property and lands – to the city of Orvieto on the condition that all could remain part of an independent foundation.
You’ll see in the Museo Faina treasures found in Orvieto’s Etruscan necropoli – and in other areas of ancient Etruria…..
…..treasures confirming the splendor of that “rich fortified city of the Etruscans” (Pliny the Elder, 1st-c A.D.).
Mille grazie to the Museo Faina for use of their photos.
My thanks, too, to Dottoressa Lara Anniboletti, Direttore Museo Archeologico Nazionale Orvieto e Necropoli di Crocifisso di Tufo, for the use of the photos of the Etruscan tombs. Do see this page for more photos and information as well as videos: https://www.facebook.com/NecropoliCrocifissodelTufo
Click here to read about fresco splendor in Orvieto
Read about the Orvieto Duomo‘s treasured Holy Corporal linked to a 13th-c miracle
Read about – and see! – the splendid Signorelli fresco of “The Preaching of the Antichrist”
Read about a talented young artisan of Orvieto, Federico Badia
Click here to read about the Assisi UNTO festival where I first met Federico and his wife Hannah
Read here more about Federico Badia – and see his work!
Click here to read about Orvieto’s Winter Jazz Festival
Read about a jazz lunch at the Ristorante San Francesco
Read about another memorable Umbria Jazz Winter concert
Read more about Umbria Jazz Winter
Read more on Umbria Jazz Winter, Orvieto
Click here for more on why Umbria Jazz Winter entices