Past to Present

The city of Todi is located in the Umbria region and belongs to the province of Perugia.
Today, it has 15,000 inhabitants. From Cortona, it takes about an hour’s drive, first along the RA6 towards Perugia, then taking the SS3bis/E45 southbound. After approximately 90km, you will reach your destination.Upon arrival, it’s best to park your car in the large parking area at the bottom ofPortaOrvietana. If you take the elevator up, you’ll immediately be treated to a spectacular view of part of the city.
Indeed, Todi is situated on a 400m high hill on the left bank of the Tiber river and it is likely that the city was founded by the Etruscans for strategic reasons. The current name is derived from the original‘Tutere’ ‘Tuder’, which refers to the ‘border’ between the territory of the Umbrians on one side and the Etruscans on the other.There are, of course, several legends about the city’s origins. One of them is beautifully dedicated in theSala del Consiglio dei Prioriin thePalazzi Communali:According to a medieval legend, Todi was founded by Porsenna, the King of Chiusi, following the signs of an eagle, which appeared with a white cloth in its claws.
The bird dropped the cloth on top of a hill, which was considered an omen, leading to the decision to found the city on that spot:
The eagle subsequently became the city’s coat of arms. The city hasfive patron saints: Bishop Fortunato, Callisto, Cassiano, Degna and Romana. The first three are depicted in a painting by Sensini (1592), presenting the city on a ‘scale’. (Displayed in the Museo della città):
The bones of these sainted are preserved in thecryptbeneath the alter of the Church of San Fortunato.
Here, the remains of Blessed Jacopone - 13th century - are also kept. He is believed to be the author of the ‘StabatMater’, one of the most famous Medieval Latin poems depicting the sorrow of the Mother of God at the crucifixion of Christ. It has been set to music by various composers throughout the centuries.In front of the San Fortunato, the fascist regime erected amonument for Jacoponein 1930. The time of its erection is indicated in Latin letters (see blue in the photo), but it also stated ‘14 September of the 8th year’ (see yellow). This is the fascist time designation, counting from 1922, the year of the Mussolini’s takeover.
The foundation stones of theChurch of San Fortunatowere laid around 1200. It’s early Christian character is evident from the presence of lions at the portal:
Around 1300, the church was rebuilt in a. Gothic style. After an interruption due to the plague, the works resumed. To finance it, a tax of 2% was imposed on all entrances and passages within the city….The facade is adorned with magnificent columns, full of charming and unexpected details:
In front of the square extends a monumental staircase:
A little further, in the central square of Todi, we find the majestic facade of theConcattedrale della Santissima Annunziata. From the 12th century, it was built on the ruins of a temple. Here too, a grand staircase leads up to the church.
Inside, on the back facade, we see a large fresco depicting theLast Judgement, painted by Ferraù Fenzoni (1596). He found his inspiration in Michelangelo’s fresco in the Sistine Chapel.
Although the devils also bring to mind Luca Signorelli’s Last Judgement in the Orvieto Cathedral…
ThePiazza del Popolo, where the Cathedral is located, is one of the most elegant squares in Italy. It was the former Roman forum. Beneath the square, in the 1st century AD, a huge water storage of 12cisternswas built. They have the capacity of 2500 cubic metre, are 48m long and lie 8.5m below the square. They were accidentally discovered in 1996, restored in 2022 and are now open to the general public.
In the Middle Ages, the Piazza del Popolo had a very different appearance. The 13th century palaces still testify to the city’s prosperity:
To the right, you see the Palazzo dei Priori from the 13th century (the old seat of the podestà). It stands directly opposite the Cathedral. The facade features the eagle from 1340, (as mentioned earlier) the symbol of the city.The two buildings on the left are thePalazzo del Popolo (circa 1220) and the Palazzo del Capitano e della giustizia(circa 1290). Inside, there is the Museo della Città and the Pinacoteca. They are rather small but extremely fascinating museums! In addition to the paintings and frescoes mentioned above, there are numerous objects from various periods in Todi's history.One very remarkable example is the ‘Bussolo delle quattro chiavi’, a box with four keys containing copper balls, which held the ballots for the last elections of ‘priori’ of the city, just before the unification of Italy.
We head back towards the parking area, but first, we’ll visit theParco di Beverly Pepper.This American artist moved to Todi in 1951 to live and work. She was a painter and sculptor. In 1964, she became the first artist to use corten steel as a material.
The 5ha park, named after her, was carefully designed by the artist herself and contains twenty sculptures from her private collection, which she donated to the city of Todi. From the city centre, you can walk along the remains of the Rocca, the medieval fortress, to the 16th century church ofSanta Maria della Consolazione, just outside the city walls.Undoubtedly it reminds you of her Renaissance ‘sisters’: Santa Maria Nuova and Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio in Cortona and San Biagio in Montepulciano.
Patrick & Kaat Muylle, 30/04/2024 10:44:06

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