Spoleto (Latin Spoletium) is an ancient city in the Italian province
Perugia in east-central
Umbria on a foothill of the Apennines. It
is 20 km (12 mi) S. of Trevi, 29 km (18 mi) N. of
Terni, 63 km (39 mi) SE of Perugia; 212 km
(132 mi) SE of Florence; and 126 km (78 mi) N of Rome.
2 Main sights
2.1 Ancient and lay buildings
5 Twin towns – sister cities
8 External links
Spoleto was situated on the eastern branch of the Via Flaminia, which
forked into two roads at
Narni and rejoined at Forum Flaminii, near
Foligno. An ancient road also ran hence to Nursia. The Ponte
Sanguinario of the 1st century BC still exists. The Forum lies under
Located at the head of a large, broad valley, surrounded by mountains,
Spoleto has long occupied a strategic geographical position. It
appears to have been an important town to the original
who built walls around their settlement in the 5th century BC, some of
which are visible today.
The first historical mention of Spoletium is the notice of the
foundation of a colony there in 241 BC; and it was still, according
to Cicero colonia latina in primis firma et illustris: a Latin
colony in 95 BC. After the
Battle of Lake Trasimene
Battle of Lake Trasimene (217 BC) Spoletium
was attacked by Hannibal, who was repulsed by the inhabitants
Second Punic War
Second Punic War the city was a useful ally to Rome. It
suffered greatly during the civil wars of
Gaius Marius and Sulla. The
latter, after his victory over Marius, confiscated the territory of
Spoletium (82 BC). From this time forth it was a municipium.
Under the empire it seems to have flourished once again, but is not
often mentioned in history.
Martial speaks of its wine. Aemilianus,
who had been proclaimed emperor by his soldiers in Moesia, was slain
by them here on his way from
Rome (AD 253), after a reign of three or
four months. Rescripts of Constantine (326) and Julian (362) are dated
from Spoleto. The foundation of the episcopal see dates from the 4th
century: early martyrs of
Spoleto are legends, but a letter to the
bishop Caecilianus, from
Pope Liberius in 354 constitutes its first
historical mention. Owing to its elevated position
Spoleto was an
important stronghold during the Vandal and Gothic wars; its walls were
dismantled by Totila.
Under the Lombards,
Spoleto became the capital of an independent
Duchy of Spoleto
Duchy of Spoleto (from 570), and its dukes ruled a
considerable part of central Italy. In 774 it became part of Holy
Roman Empire. Together with other fiefs, it was bequeathed to Pope
Gregory VII by the powerful countess Matilda of Tuscany, but for some
time struggled to maintain its independence. In 1155 it was destroyed
by Frederick Barbarossa. In 1213 it was definitively occupied by Pope
Gregory IX. During the absence of the papal court in Avignon, it was
prey to the struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines, until in 1354
Cardinal Albornoz brought it once more under the authority of the
View of Spoleto
After Napoleon's conquest of Italy, in 1809
Spoleto became capital of
the short-lived French department of Trasimène, returning to the
Papal States after Napoleon's defeat, within five years. In 1860,
after a gallant defence,
Spoleto was taken by the troops fighting for
the unification of Italy. Giovanni Pontano, founder of the Accademia
Pontaniana of Naples, was born here. Another child of
Francis Possenti who was educated in the Jesuit school and whose
father was the Papal assesor, Francis later entered the Passionists
and became Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.
The Rocca Albornoziana
Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta
San Pietro church, façade
Ancient and lay buildings
The Roman theater, largely rebuilt. The stage is occupied by the
former church of St. Agatha, currently housing the National
Ponte Sanguinario ("bloody bridge"), a Roman bridge 1st century BCE.
The name is traditionally attributed to the persecutions of Christians
in the nearby amphiteatre.
A restored Roman house with mosaic floors, indicating it was built in
the 1st century, and overlooked the Forum Square. An inscription by
Emperor Caligula suggests the house was that of Vespasia
Polla, the mother of Emperor Vespasian.
Roman amphitheater (2nd century). It was turned into a fortress by
Totila in 545 and in Middle Ages times was used for stores and shops,
while in the cavea the church of San Gregorio Minore was built. The
stones were later used to build the Rocca.
The Palazzo Comunale (13th century).
Ponte delle Torri, a striking 13th-century aqueduct, possibly on Roman
foundations: whether it was first built by the Romans is a point on
which scholarly opinion is divided.
The majestic Rocca Albornoziana fortress, built in 1359–1370 by the
architect Matteo Gattapone of
Gubbio for Cardinal Albornoz. It has six
sturdy towers which formed two distinct inner spaces: the Cortile
delle Armi, for the troops, and the Cortile d'onore for the use of the
city's governor. The latter courtyard is surrounded by a two-floor
porch. The rooms include the Camera Pinta ("Painted Room") with
noteworthy 15th‑century frescoes. After having resisted many sieges,
the Rocca was turned into a jail in 1800 and used as such until the
late 20th century. After extensive renovation it was reopened as a
museum in 2007.
The Palazzo Racani-Arroni (16th century) has a worn graffito
decoration attributed to Giulio Romano. The inner courtyard has a
Palazzo della Signoria (14th century), housing the city's museum.
The majestic Palazzo Vigili (15th-16th centuries) includes the Torre
dell'Olio (13th century), the sole mediaeval city tower remaining in
Temple of Clitumnus
Temple of Clitumnus lies between
Spoleto and Trevi
Duomo (Cathedral) of S. Maria Assunta: Construction of the Duomo
begun around 1175 and completed in 1227. The Romanesque edifice
contains the tomb of Filippo Lippi, who died in
Spoleto in 1469,
designed by his son Filippino Lippi. The church also houses a
manuscript letter by Saint Francis of Assisi.
San Pietro extra Moenia: This church was founded in 419 to house the
supposed chains that once bound St Peter. It was built over an ancient
necropolis. Reconstruction occurred from the 12th century to the 15th
century, when a remarkable Romanesque façade was added: this has
three doors with rose-windows, with a splendid relief decoration by
local artists, portraying stories of the life of St. Peter. Together
with S. Rufino in Assisi, it is the finest extant specimen of
Umbrian Romanesque. The church is preceded by a large staircase. In
the 17th century the interior, having a basilica plan with a nave, two
aisles, and an elliptical dome, was remade in Baroque style.
Basilica of San Salvatore: This church from the 4th-5th century
incorporates the cella of a
Roman temple and is one of the most
important examples of Early Christian architecture. It was remade by
Lombards in the 8th century. In 2011, it became a UNESCO World
Heritage Site as part of a group of seven inscribed as Longobards in
Italy, Places of Power (568–774 A.D.).
San Ponziano is monastery and 12-century, Romanesque church standing
outside the city's walls, dedicated to the patron saint of Spoleto.
The church was modified in later centuries by Giuseppe Valadier. The
crypt, however, has remained untouched, with its five small naves and
small apses with cross-vault, ancient Roman spolia columns and
frescoes of the 14th-15th centuries.
Santa Maria della Manna d'Oro, Former sanctuary built in octagonal
plan facing the piazza del Duomo. Putatively erected by the merchants
of the town to thank the Madonna for sparing the city from plundering
by the Imperial army in 1527. Presently exhibition hall.
San Domenico (13th century) is a Gothic construction in white and pink
stone. The interior has notable frescoes and a painting by Giovanni
Lanfranco. The crpyt is a former church dedicated to St. Peter, with
San Gregorio Maggiore (11th-12th century), is a Romanesque church
which has been restored to original lines only in recent times. The
façade has a 16th-century portico that includes the Chapel of the
Innocents (14th century) with a noteworthy font. The main external
feature is the high belfry, finished only in the 15th century. The
interior has three naves with spolia columns and pillars.
The former church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo is a Romanesque edifice
featuring, on the exterior, a 13th-century fresco portraying Madonna
with Saints. The interior frescoes, from the 13th-15th centuries,
include some of the most ancient representations of the martyrdom of
St. Thomas Becket, by Alberto Sotio, and of St. Francis.
Basilica of Sant'Eufemia (12th century), a striking example of
Romanesque architecture with influences from Lombardy and Veneto. The
interior has three naves with spolia columns.
San Paolo inter vineas (10th century) is a typical Spoletine
Romanesque church. Its main feature is the rose-window of the façade.
The former church and
Augustinian convent of San Nicolò (1304) is a
rare example of Gothic style in Spoleto. The small church has a single
nave with a splendid polygonal apse with mullioned windows. Under the
apse is the church of Santa Maria della Misericordia. There are two
cloisters, the more recent one pertaining to the 15th century.
San Filippo Neri is a Baroque construction of mid-17th century,
designed by the Loreto Scelli.
Sant'Ansano is an 18th-century church built atop more ancient
buildings including a 1st-century
Roman temple and the mediaeval Crypt
of St Isaac. It has a cloister from the 16th century.
Festival dei Due Mondi
Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of the Two Worlds) was founded in
Spoleto was a small town, where real estate and other
goods and services were at the time relatively inexpensive, and also
because there are two indoor theatres, a Roman theatre and many other
spaces, it was chosen by
Gian Carlo Menotti
Gian Carlo Menotti as the venue for an arts
festival. It is also fairly close to Rome, with good rail connections.
It is an important cultural event, held annually in late June-early
The festival has developed into one of the most important cultural
manifestations in Italy, with a three-week schedule of music, theater
and dance performances. For some time it became a reference point for
modern sculpture exhibits, and works of art left to the city by
Alexander Calder and others are a testimony to this.
In the United States, a parallel festival —
Spoleto Festival USA
Spoleto Festival USA —
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina was founded in 1977 with Menotti's
involvement. The twinning only lasted some 15 years and, after growing
disputes between the Menotti family and the
Spoleto Festival USA
board, in the early 1990s a separation was consummated. However,
following Menotti's death in February 2007, the city administrations
Spoleto and Charleston started talks to re-unite the two festivals
which would climax in
Spoleto mayor Massimo Brunini's attending the
opening ceremony of
Spoleto Festival USA
Spoleto Festival USA in May 2008. For a short
period of time, a third parallel festival was also held in Melbourne,
In 1992, the
Spoleto Arts Symposium was initiated with the purpose of
bringing talented people from all around the world to study in
Spoleto. The program apparently ceased in 2009, to be replaced by a
similar program, started by the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) of
the University of Cincinnati in 2010.
Spoleto gained its main results in sport with the local Volleyball
team, Olio Venturi Spoleto, who classified in the quarter-finals of
the Italian championship in sport.
The town's football team, A.D. Voluntas Calcio Spoleto, play in Serie
Twin towns – sister cities
Various suburbs and small villages surrounding the city of Spoleto
(collectively referred to as "Frazioni") include: Acquaiola,
Acquacastagna, Ancaiano, Azzano, Baiano, Bazzano Inferiore, Bazzano
Superiore, Beroide, Camporoppolo, Campo Salese, Cerqueto, Cese,
Collerisana, Collicelli, Cortaccione, Crocemaroggia, Eggi, Fogliano,
Forca di Cerro, Madonna di Baiano, Maiano, Messenano, Milano,
Montebiblico, Monteluco, Monte Martano, Morgnano, Morro, Ocenelli,
Palazzaccio, Perchia, Petrognano, Pompagnano, Pontebari, Poreta,
Protte, Rubbiano, San Brizio, San Giacomo, San Giovanni di Baiano, San
Martino in Trignano, San Nicolò, San Silvestro, Santa Croce,
Sant'Anastasio, Sant'Angelo in Mercole, San Venanzo, Silvignano,
Somma, Strettura, Terraia, Terzo la Pieve, Terzo San Severo,
Testaccio, Uncinano, Valdarena, Valle San Martino,
^ Population data from Istat
^ Liv. Epit. xx; Vell. Pat. i.14.
^ (Pro Balbo)
^ Livy xxii.9.
^ Procopius, de Bello Gothico iii. 12.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain:
Thomas Ashby (1911). "Spoleto". In Chisholm,
Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Spoleto.
Charleston & Spoleto's Sister City Web Site
Official web site of the public and private turistic operators of
Pro Loco Spoleto
Festival of the Two Worlds
ITALYscapes - Spoleto
Umbria · Comuni of the Province of Perugia
Campello sul Clitunno
Castiglione del Lago
Cerreto di Spoleto
Città della Pieve
Città di Castello
Fossato di Vico
Monte Castello di Vibio
Monte Santa Maria Tiberina
Monteleone di Spoleto
Passignano sul Trasimeno
Sant'Anatolia di Narco
Scheggia e Pascelupo
Tuoro sul Trasimeno
Vallo di Nera