Spoleto’s Roman Theater: Then and Now
From the 1st-century B.C. to the 4th-century, A.D., the citizens of Spoletium gathered in their teatro for evening pleasures
Theatrical, dance and musical presentations again animate the teatro romano which often backdrops Spoleto’s Two Worlds Festival ….and not only.
Our family saw the New York City Ballet perform in the Roman theater at the Spoleto Festival some years ago: an unforgettable memory for each of us.
Our view of the stage was about from here:
On a recent visit, I was delighted to see y0ung visitors of today enjoying the Roman theater as well during their family visit to the Museo Archeologico which overlooks the theater. Livia (appropriately, with a Roman name) was painting the theater…
….while her sister, Delia, drew it:
Do note behind Delia, the apse of the Church dedicated to Sant’Agata constructed in the early Middle Ages. In this photo below, the church apse is also clearly evident, to the right of the theater:
Around the front of the church, columns of the 11th-century sustain the portico gracing the front of the church…
…and flanking the portico is the entrance to that aforementioned Museo Archeologico Statale, housing many sculptural remnants found during excavation of the Roman theater (as well as pre-Roman artifact marvels):
Adjacent to the Church of Sant’Agata is the 11th-century noble palazzo of the Corvi family, the oldest palazzo nobile in Spoleto and constructed as a fortified edifice along a major entryway to Spoleto.
Reliefs of the corvi (crows), family symbol, can be seen on various corners of the building:
The noble palazzo became a Benedictine convent at the end of the 14th-century and now houses the Museo Archeologico.
As you enter the Museo, you’ll note Roman artifacts backdropped by the porticoed convent galleries:
…and with the convent porticoes before you, look left over Roman remnants, where the Roman theater rises in majesty:
Inside the Museo, three floors of artifacts from the Roman and Umbrian (7th – 5th-century B.C.) civilizations spread out in this former Benedictine convent-once-a-noble palace:
Sculptural marvels once adorning the teatro are included in the Museo collection.
Most stunning of all for me was the 5th-century B.C. Greek marble statue depicting the nymph Aura brought to this peninsula following a Roman conquest in the East.
The statue was later modified to represent Venus and according to archaeologists, was probably adorning a niche along the theater ambulacrum (an arcade, walkway).
The opportunity to view the Roman theater and the Museo Archeologico is thanks to the discovery in 1891 by a great spoletino archeologist, Giuseppe Sordini, of a 16th-century Baldassare Peruzzi drawing (now in the Uffizi).Studying the sketch and the artist’s scribble of a theater near a “monastero di moniche”), Sordini knew that the imposing ruins partially visible were in the area of the Benedictine monastery of Sant’Agata. As recently written, “La memoria dell’antico teatro si era persa nei secoli” (“The memory of the theater had been lost over the centuries”).
As of 1870. the convent had become a women’s prison and restoration work on the Roman theater only began in 1933 but with the most significant work done 1954-1960.
These photos give an indication of the challenges to archaeologists and restorers:
The glory we see today is thanks to Giuseppe Sordini.
Mille grazie to un grande archeologo spoletino.
Read here about Spoleto’s Roman house, also a Sordini revelation
Click here to read about – and see -a Spoleto church enhanced with Roman remnants
Read about a splendid Spoleto basilica of Lombard architecture, UNESCO World Heritage site
Click here to read about another UNESCO World Heritage splendor of Spoleto
Read about the treasures in Spoleto’s Museo Diocesano
Click here to read about the splendid Spoleto cathedral
Read about – and see – Spoleto’s splendid Church of Sant’ Eufemia
Read about – and see! – the splendor of Spoleto’s historic library
Click here to read about – and see!- Spoleto’s 14th-c. Papal fortress
Read about one of Umbria’s most splendid medieval churches – in Spoleto