Church of Sant'Andrea
Before Orvieto witnessed the birth of its famous Cathedral (1290), the religious and community life of the city found its main fulcrum in the Collegiate Church of Saints Andrew and Bartholomew, better known as the Church of St. Andrew.
Built since 1013, the Church of Saint Andrew is still one of the places most loved by the Orvietani and most frequented by tourists, thanks to its privileged position, overlooking the airy Piazza della Repubblica.
External appearance of the Church of Saint Andrew
The Church of Saint Andrew is a wonderful example of Romanesque style, embellished by the adjacent bell tower with a dodecagonal plan. The entire architectural complex underwent a major renovation at the beginning of the 20th century, but as we shall see, its history begins much earlier, around 1000 BC.
The imposing three-part facade made of tuff has, at the top of the wide entrance staircase, a portal made of red marble. The latter is embellished by the bezel with high reliefs of sacred figures, introduced during the renovation of 1926, mentioned above. Other innovations due to this renovation are represented by the stained glass windows in the central rose window and the decorations in the lateral portico.
The bell tower and the twentieth-century renovation
With the 1926 renovation, carried out by Giovannoni, the restyling of the bell tower was also conducted. The dodecagonal shape is inspired by that of the bell tower of the Abbey of Saints Severus and Martyrdom, an ancient place of worship just outside the city. Another analogy between the two buildings is due to the battlements at the top of the tower.
The triple double lancet window sequence in the upper part of the bell tower, which offers great breadth to the entire architectural figure, is valuable.
The interior of the church
The Latin cross design consists of three large naves covered in marble and surmounted by wooden trusses. Beyond the transept, surmounted by high cross vaults, is the apse with a quadrangular plan, with a pipe organ from the 1900s and a wooden crucifix depicting contemporary art.
Inside the church, you can admire the valuable pulpit with geometries in the Cosmatesque style, the fourteenth-century frescoes and the paintings of sacred art by the Orvieto school.
The basement of the Church of Saint Andrew
One of the main attractions of the church of St. Andrew is its underground crypt. Under the foundations of the present structure, in fact, it reveals a treasure of archaeological remains dating back to the Etruscan age of the Villanovan era: we are talking about about three thousand years ago.
The amazement experienced when you discover the road bases of an ancient village which are still intact is only equal to the amazement aroused by the glass tesserae mosaics of the early Christian church once present on site, dating back to the sixth century.
It is so fascinating to discover the historical interweaving of the civilizations that have followed one another in these places: the wells of Etruscan origin, which once served as cisterns for water, were later exploited by the Byzantines for the baptismal font of their precious basilica built in Ravenna style. And the ancient columns of the missing naves now support the pillars of the current structure.
The basements of the church of Saint Andrew are part of the so-called Orvieto Underground, an amazing complex of tunnels that runs through the entire city and that once represented an integral part of the life of the country on the cliff.
An unmissable attraction of the city of Orvieto
The church of Saint Andrew has witnessed some key moments in Orvieto's history, from the investiture of Pope Martin IV at the end of the 13th century, to the nomination of the future Pope Boniface VIII as cardinal. And it was King Vittorio Emanuele III who inaugurated the new Collegiate Church in 1928, at the end of Giovannoni's renovation.
Today the church of Saint Andrew is still one of the most visited places in Orvieto, with its relaxed atmosphere rich in art, culture and mysticism.
Curiosity: the celebrations in honour of Saint Mary of the Assumption, patron saint of the city to which the Cathedral is dedicated, have been held here on August 14th of each year.