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Orvieto (Umbria), Italy

Church of San Lorenzo de' Arari

 
 

The church of Saint Lawrence de' Arari is a modest example of Romanesque style, located south of the cliff, near Porta Romana.

Originally, in the year 1000, the church of Saint Lawrence was farther away from its current position by about 100 metres (or 40 reeds, to use the terminology used at the time).

The subsequent move was caused by a dispute over the property, which at the time belonged to the Chapter of Saint Constantius, or more likely was due to the grievances of the Franciscans, whose meditation in the nearby church of Saint Francis was disturbed by the celebrations held in Saint Lawrence.

The new location on the remains of an Etruscan temple

So this is how the church was rebuilt in 1291, in its current position, in Saint Clare's Square, according to a faithful replica of the style of the original building.

For the new building which was commissioned by Pope Nicholas IV, a sacred area was chosen in which an ancient Etruscan temple already stood in the past. The altar of the church is a testament to this choice, with its canteen resting on the altar of the old temple. 

This original situation gave rise to the name with which this church has always been known, Saint Lawrence de' Arari.

A moderate and measured style

The style of the church is one of the most classical Romanesque, absolutely dry and measured in shape and size.

The facade made of local tuff like the rest of the structure, has a hut shape, the central rose window and an accurate fifteenth-century portal, surrounded by basalt and surmounted by a frescoed bezel. 

On the side of the church there is a bell tower, which conforms to the minimal composition of the overall style of the structure. 

The interior of the church confirms the atmosphere of moderate austerity and is characterized by two rows of sturdy columns, which divide the church into three naves and lead the eye to the valuable ciborium. 

The ciborium, built in Byzantine style with dark stone, overlooks the peculiar Etruscan stone that makes up the altar.

The central apse is semi-circular and frescoed and is flanked by two side apses complete with minor altars.

The medieval frescoes inside the church

The faint natural light of the church of Saint Lawrence de' Arari is mainly concentrated in the central nave, while the two lateral naves remain almost constantly in the half-light, only touched by the light coming from the high single-lancet windows.

The massive columns bear the remains of ancient medieval frescoes and are completed by very simple neo-Romanesque style capitals. On the columns on the left, the renovated fresco depicting the life of Saint Lawrence, dating back to the beginning of the 14th century, is beautifully displayed.

The fresco that enhances the main apse, where Jesus is enthroned, Mary and Saints John, Lawrence and Francis are represented has a certain value, even though it has been extensively reworked.

The wooden trusses date back to the 1900s and are in keeping with the overall decoration that characterises the style of this church.

A visit to Saint Lawrence de' Arari

Today, the church of Saint Lawrence de' Arari is intended for the celebration of Orthodox rites and can also be freely visited inside.

With its story of continuity between various eras and religious traditions, this church is an important testimony to the culture, faith and history of the city of Orvieto.