The main tourist attraction of Orvieto is the famous Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral. The façade of this Gothic church is decorated with all kinds of ornaments. The main attraction of the cathedral is the San Brizio Chapel, frescoed by Luca Signorelli.
Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral Orvieto
Address, opening times and admission
Address: Piazza del Duomo – Orvieto. Opening hours: November to February from 09:00 to 13:00 and from 14:30 to 17:00; March and October from 09:30 to 18:00; April to September from 09:30 to 19:00. Opening hours Sundays and holidays: November to February from 14.30 to 16.30; March to October from 13.00 to 17.30. In high season you may have to wait a while before entering the San Brizio Chapel, as only a certain number of visitors are allowed inside at the same time. Entrance fee: 4 Euro. (Note that, during the Covid crisis, the Green Pass is obligatory.)
History Duomo Orvieto
The very first cathedral of Orvieto was dedicated to Santa Maria Episcopatus, although it was usually referred to Santa Maria Prisca. At the time, there was also a church dedicated to San Costanzo, the ruins of which were discovered in 1955 under the nave of the current cathedral. The exact location of the Santa Maria Prisca Cathedral is not known.
By the end of the 11th century, the Santa Maria Prisca cathedral had fallen into complete disrepair. From then on important religious occasions took place, first in the Sant’ Andrea Church, later in the San Domenico Church and still later in the San Francesco Church.
In 1284, it was decided to build a new cathedral, although it took 6 more years before construction was begun. The Palazzo Papali had already been completed by then.
In order to demolish the San Costanzo Church, the city had to promise to build a cathedral as beautiful as the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome. To pay for the construction, Pope Nicholas IV issued indulgences.
Later, Pope Boniface VIII was also to give a large donation, but most of the money needed came from taxes that the town’s inhabitants had to pay from then on.
A reason for the foundation of the church can be found in the “Miracle of Bolsena”. Bolsena is a small town near Orvieto. In 1264, after the sacramental bread used during a church service was noticed to be bleeding here, it was brought to Pope Urban IV in Orvieto. The pope subsequently called the Corpus Christi celebration into being. A cloth soaked with blood from the sacramental bread is kept in a golden reliquary behind the altar in the Cappella del Corporale.
Highlights Cathedral Orvieto
The facade of Orvieto’s Duomo is a work of art in itself. It is characterized by alternating broad horizontal stripes of black basalt and yellow limestone. The façade is completely covered with all manner of decorations, including sculptures, stained glass windows, and magnificent, multicolored mosaics. Many of these ornaments were created by famous artists of the time.
Unlike most churches with mosaics on the facade, the architectural style of the church is not Byzantine but Gothic.
The modern bronze doors were created by Emilio Greco in 1969.
San Brizio Chapel
The main attraction of the church is the San Brizio Chapel, with frescoes painted by Luca Signorelli. Theme is the “Judgment and Resurrection”of the work, which is considered among the highlights of 15th century painting. Signorelli, however, painted not symbols, but ordinary people with everyday human emotions.