Seen here through a net of holiday lights: San Fortunato's steeple 

San Fortunato Church

Todi, Perugia/Umbria, Italy
Visited Fall 2007

Todi's Pinnacle

Any landscape of Todi generally features San Fortunato's steeple -- the highest point (at about 1350 feet above sea level) of this lovely and well preserved Umbrian hill town which rises about 800 feet above the nearby Tiber river. Old Todi rests on 2 hills with this church taking the higher ground.  

It takes effort to get here, even if one can find a parking spot at the church base. From there, many steps rise over unadorned lawns to reach this facade and, as you can see from the picture below, a small road leads to parking for the saved (or at least those with a permit). In Italy often one man's tourism jewel is another man's parking spot.

San Fortunato facade

Facade: the nave and side aisles each with decorated portal

Overall church construction started in 1292, making this one of the first "hall churches" in this area (more on that on the following page).  As obvious from the picture above, we have a work in progress: the top half of the facade was never finished.  The lower half from the 15th century fared better. Its 5 carved cylinders spiral around the central doorway with exquisitely carvings. 

San Fortunato facade
Facade: main portal with five spiral columns and (possibly) Jacopo della Quercia's Archangel Gabriel in the large niche at left[20]

Franciscans started building this church in 1292. Work stopped in 1348 when nearly half of Todi was wiped out by the plague. Giovanni da Santuccio and his nephew Bartolo from Firenzuola served as architects for the facade which started construction in 1420 and never finished.  By the end of the century, Todi ran out of money and energy from fighting its neighbor city-states.[18]

The niche at left holds a statue of the archangel Gabriel of Annunciation fame. This may be the work of the Tuscan genius Jacopo della Quercia, who around this time was the supervising architect at Sienna's cathedral construction.

Shared Lions

San Fortunato old lion

Guarding the steps for a millennium stand two weathered lions

A church to Todi's patron and first bishop San Fortunato had been here before. These travertine lions were used in the original Benedictine Vallumbrosan church and possibly date back to the 7th century.[16-38] They need a little work.

Inside, this hall church is spacious and sun-lit, creating a brilliant space for the Franciscans to preach.  Join us there by clicking here.

NEXT: San Fortunato Interior

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Created on May 15, 2008 corrected November 15,2009

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