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San Pellegrino quarter

San Pellegrino quarter

Historically, Viterbo was the administrative and economic capital of Upper Latium. An ancient city of great historic tradition, this provincial capital was once even seat of the papacy. The town contains extremely interesting monuments and works of art. The mediaeval character of the town is almost perfectly preserved in the San Pellegrino quarter in the centre. This mediaeval identity is perhaps epitomised by the gothic Palazzo degli Alessandri built in the first half of the 13th century. The 11th-century San Pellegrino church stands in the small square of the same name. In the mediaeval quarter is the Ospedale dei Pellegrini founded in 1150-1200 by a married couple, Guidone and Diletta, and donated to the town clergy as a hospice for pilgrims. The engraved stone commemorating the donation is still to be seen at the bridge next to the main church. But the most interesting and magnificent building in the mediaeval centre is beyond doubt the Papal Palace. The building itself and the wealth of artistic treasures within attest to the great historical significance of Viterbo. The Palace was the wish of Raniero Gatti, the valiant captain of the people. Completed in 1266 or so, the Palace was ready to receive the Papal court when it decided to flee the turbulence of Rome. No less than five conclaves were held in the rooms of this fortress-residence, including a conclave that lasted 33 months before it elected the new pope, Gregory X, in 1271. The story of this conclave is an interesting one. After endless months without a decision, the people grew so tired of the inability of the cardinals to make up their minds that, with a view to accelerating the process, they obliged Raniero Gatti to close the cardinals in the fortress "under lock and key" ("cum clave" in mediaeval Latin, whence the word "conclave"), to reduce their supply of food and open the roof to the elements. Viterbo has other important monumental buildings such as the Rocca Albornoz, a fortress that now contains the national museum; the Church of St Maria della Verità and, next door, the City Museum. The Churches of San Andrea (Saint Andrew's) and Maria in Gradi (St Mary's) are both buildings of architectural and historical merit. Viterbo also has numerous lovely fountains, chief amongst which is the Fontana Grande located in the Piazza of the same name. The ancient Via Cassia passes through an area known as the "Plain of the Baths" known as such for the thermal springs there that have been famous since Etruscan times. Upon the Via Cassia stand the remains of an ancient bridge called the Camillario, as well as the imposing ruins of the baths. The bridge is composed of a single wide arch formed by large blocks mounted upon one another without the use of mortar. The sheer size of the bridge is indicative of the former importance of the Via Cassia. The original bridge was built sometime in first century BC and a later one was built on the same site in the late Middle Ages. Nearby, there once stood a town that in 1082 hosted the Emperor Henry IV on his way to Rome to confront Pope Gregory VII. The town was destroyed in 1137 by the followers of the Antipope Clement II. The Bacucco baths, of which Michelangelo made two detailed drawings while on one of his visits to this area, were probably the most important baths of the area judging by archaeological evidence unearthed during the excavations of 1835. The remains of a Roman villa are to be found in the area which also includes Bagnaccio water source where the important Roman resort of Acquae Passeris used to be. The bathing resort is marked in the ancient Peutingeriana map that shows all the Roman military roads. The most important thermal spring of all, however, has to the that of Bullicame which since ancient times has been famous for its healing properties and is even mentioned by Dante in the Divine Comedy. From 2 September, Viterbo begins its celebrations of Santa Rosa, patron saint of the city, with town parades in which the participants wear the typical costumes of bygone epochs. At nine in the evening of 3 September, the procession of the famous Macchina of St Rosa takes place. The macchina (engine of war) is a lighted tower 30 metres high weighing five tons which is hoisted onto the shoulders of around one hundred "porters” and thus borne aloft through the streets of the city.

 

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PROVINCIA DI VITERBO
Via Saffi, 49 01100 VITERBO
Codice fiscale / Partita IVA 80005570561
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e-mail: provincia@provincia.vt.it

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