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In and About Viterbo Tuscania: the town

Italy is also called the country of the thousand towns, with reference to the high number of Italian towns having a historical and artistic interest. This is particularly true in central and northern Italy where in the XIth century the lack of a centralized power favoured the development of self governed structures at town level.
These town states were so successful that in certain circumstances they were able to fight against the German emperor or the pope who both claimed to have sovereign rights over them. They built large churches and town halls as a symbol of their wealth and independence.
Some of these towns gradually became regional powers (Florence, Milan, Venice) at the expense of the others and Renaissance and Baroque monuments replaced or modified most of their medieval buildings.
In northern Latium the independence of these towns came to an end in the XIVth century when Cardinal Gil Alvarez d'Albornoz subdued them and restored the authority of the pope over the Patrimonium Petri, as what is today the province of Viterbo was called for centuries, with reference to the fact that the papal state (St. Peter's patrimony) had its origin there.
Tuscania was conquered by Cardinal Albornoz in 1354 and time seems to have come to a standstill at this point.

View of Tuscania from S. Pietro
View of Tuscania from S. Pietro

In 1348-49 a bubonic plague (The Black Death) almost halved the population of Europe. In Tuscania its impact was so heavy that the oldest part of the town where the main medieval churches (S. Pietro and S. Maria Maggiore) were located was abandoned.
A sensible town planning has addressed the expansion of modern Tuscania towards an area behind its western walls, preserving the very medieval view of the town from its old center.

Towers of the walls, Porta S. Marco, Torre del Lavello and bell tower of S. Silvestro
Towers of the walls, Porta S. Marco, Torre del Lavello and bell tower of S. Silvestro

Tuscania retains most of its medieval walls and some towers protecting the palaces of the most important families. Even some of the bell towers have the appearance of a military building.
Torre del Lavello protected the palace of the Lavello family who in the early XVth century vainly attempted to lessen papal authority.

Views of medieval Tuscania: in the foreground an Etruscan sarcophagus
Views of medieval Tuscania: in the foreground the cover of an Etruscan sarcophagus

Tuscania was an Etruscan town of some importance and many tombs have been found in its neighbourhood. The rich were buried in sarcophagi covered by a statue where they were portrayed in a posture which to our modern mind suggests someone who is sick, but which for the Etruscans and for the Romans was the usual way they attended a banquet (which was customary in funerary ceremonies).

Renaissance house and coats of arms of the Farnese
Renaissance house and coats of arms of the Farnese

Tuscania was located very close to the Duchy of Castro, a small state run by the Farnese family for more than a century. Their coats of arms on the very few Renaissance buildings of Tuscania show that they had a great influence on the town.

S. Maria della Rosa
S. Maria della Rosa

The XIVth century church of S. Maria della Rosa has several points in common with churches of Corneto (Tarquinia). The horizontal design of the fašade is typical of the architecture of the Abruzzi region, and it is relatively unusual in Latium.

S. Maria del Riposo
S. Maria del Riposo

Tuscania is located in a region which has a high seismic risk and the Renaissance church of S. Maria del Riposo was protected against the effects of earthquakes by additional walls. The monastery next to it has a very large cloister and it now hosts the archaeological museum of Tuscania.

Cathedral and main fountain
Cathedral and main fountain

The cathedral was almost entirely redesigned in the XVIIIth century, but it retains its XVIth century fašade built by Cardinal Gambara, the founder of Villa di Bagnaia. The fountain is thought to be a work by il Vignola, who worked for Cardinal Gambara in Bagnaia.

Go to
page two to see the finest churches of Tuscania.

In and about Viterbo - other pages:
Orte and Vasanello
S. Maria della Querce
S. Martino al Cimino

Walks with Ferdinand Gregorovius in the Roman countryside

some other walks:
A walk to Porta Furba
Via Appia Antica from Cecilia Metella to Torre in Selci
Via Appia Antica from Torre in Selci to Frattocchie

See my Home Page on Baroque Rome or my Home Page on Rome in the footsteps of an XVIIIth century traveller

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