Anne's Blog

Orvieto: From Architectural Majesty to Local Artisans

Date: May 25, 2022 - categories: - Leave your thoughts

When touring Orvieto recently with guests Judy and Grady,  the magnificent Duomo (cathedral) simply had to be starting point:

The facade’s early 14th-century marble bas-reliefs by Sienese architect Lorenzo Maitani and assistants – as well as other masters –  were not only splendid adornment to the lower level but certainly served as instruction on Old Testament and New Testament lore for the local populace.

Do view the splendor here

And if you join me for an Orvieto tour, I’ll be glad to share the stories – as I did with Judy and Grady.

The fourth sculpted pier was our particular focus as the scenes of the Giudizio Finale (Last Judgement)……..

….would be rendered inside the cathedral in the fresco splendor of the  apocalyptic scenes by Cortona artist Luca Signorelli over 150 years later:

Inside the cathedral…..

…we headed to right of the altar to the Chapel of San Brizio to take in that fresco splendor of Luca Signorelli  (1499-1501).

As we perused the frescoes, I pointed out the multiple self-portraits of Signorelli in the work, including the depiction of himself (with his long blond locks) next to his predecessor who had also frescoed there, Beato Angelico (in his Dominican habit):

Both Grady and Judy were very moved by Signorelli’s Compianto (grief, mourning) in which the artist probably depicted his son, Antonio, as the crucified Christ in the arms of his mourning mother.

Already training to be a painter, Antonio had died in Cortona in 1502 during a plague outbreak while his father was frescoing in Orvieto.

The pathos of the Madonna cradling her son is also artfully portrayed by Ippolito Scalza, Orvieto sculptor and the cathedral’s capomaestro (head of all works), in his 16th-century Pieta’ flanking the altar of the Orvieto cathedral.

For me, Scalza’s Pieta’ is one of the most stunning sculptural masterpieces in all of Umbria.

As we gazed at the Scalza masterpiece, I recounted to Judy and Grady the astonishment of a doctor in one of my tours who had marveled at Scalza’s anatomical accuracy sculpted in marble, pointing out the tendons and muscles in Christ’s body, the bones in the hand of the sorrowful Simeone, grasping the pliers he had used to pull out the nails, as well as Simeone’s arm muscles:

The Magdalene tenderly holding Christ’s foot (also anatomically perfect) is captivating:

Although I have often toured Orvieto’s Duomo with guests over the years – and always with molto enthusiasm – my visit here with Judy and Grady included added highlights:  a focus on the stained glass for I had recently learned about – and viewed –  the extraordinary stained glass masterpieces of the Moretti Caselli workshop in Perugia.

The stained glass windows – bordered at the base with finely-cut agate sheets – on the wide walls of the church were created by Francesco Moretti and Ludovico Caselli between 1885 and 1905..

…and they also replaced the 13th-century windows of the apse:

Our Orvieto walk after our Duomo visit, took us past the Palazzo del Popolo, medieval civic palace facinating for its curved volcanic rock crenellation on the rooftop, unique in all of Umbria:

Unique, too, is the tuff rock sculptural work adorning the windows:

As we walked  strolled the medieval backstreets of Orvieto…

…we stopped in to see the work of talented young shoemaker, Federico Badia:

….for after all, meeting the artisans, too, adds to a medieval hill town visit.
Judy and Grady decided on a leather artisanal purchase from Federico: a belt made by him for Grady.
Federico sized it for Grady:
A perfect fit:
….and even after the abundant lunch which followed!
We savored Orvieto goodness at the favorite Orvieto restaurant of our family.
Before they left Umbria, Judy wrote a comment about our Umbria hill town tours together and in her note, she wrote, “In every town, Anne knew the locals so we visited the finest artisans and ate in the best restaurants everywhere we went.”
Yes, art and history are most definitely the focus of my tours – but not the only elements.
Read about another tour with Judy and Grady – and Judy’s comments

Read about the talents of young artisan of Orvieto, Federico Badia

Read here more about Federico Badia – and see his work!

Read about Orvieto fresco masterpieces

Click here to more 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 “homecoming”in the Duomo of Orvieto

Read about underground Orvieto

Click here to read about Etruscan Orvieto

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 Winter Jazz

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Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)