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Piazza San Benedetto, Norcia


City walls, Norcia


A street in Norcia

 

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The Churches of Norcia
Churches of Umbria

 

Welcome to Norcia
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 4,900 (2001)
Official website:
Norcia
Wikipedia: Norcia

Maps: MapQuest

"Norcineria" is the generic word that Italians give to the pork sausages and hams that are made from wild boars that local hunters bring down from the Monti Sibilini, a sub-range of the Appenines, that abut the broad plain upon which the town of Norcia sits.  As you walk around town, you will see boar's heads, hairy and grimacing,   hanging from hooks in many of the butcher's windows.

Norcia, known to the Romans as "Nursia", was settled as long ago as the 13th Century BC by the Sabines, who became Roman allies in the Second Punic Wars, and were ultimately absorbed into their empire.  There is a Sabine necropolis outside the Porta Romana, one of the gates into the City worth taking a look at.

With the fall of Rome, Norcia came under the usual succession of rulers in Umbria - the Goths, followed by the Longobards (the Duchy of Spoleto), the Holy Roman Empire, but finally the Papal Sates (900 AD), within which it became a relatively powerful comune during the 12th century.  Napoleon  exercised domination for a short time at the end of the 18th century, but it was returned to the fold of the Papal States after the Congress of Vienna, remaining there until Italian Unification in 1861.

Sitting as it does on a high plain (the Piano di Santa Scolastica), Norcia, like Bevagna - and unlike most other Umbrian towns and cities - has a flat landscape.  It is fully enclosed by medieval walls that remain intact despite being badly shaken by earthquakes in 1328, 1567, 1703, 1859 and 1979.  The walls, and Norcia's oldest church, San Lorenzo, were partially constructed from quarried stone taken from Roman works.  Some of the stones carry inscriptions from Roman days ("Aurelius was here!")

Saint Benedict, founder of the Benedictine monastical system, and his twin sister, Scholastica, who was also sainted, were born here in 480 AD.  Sitting on Norcia's main piazza adjacent to the municipal hall, and commemorating their births, is the Basilica Santa Benedicto, which is still maintained by the Benedictine Order.  The church was built in the 13th century, either on an earlier Roman building, or possibly on the site of the house where the saints were born.

Learn more about St. Benedict

The municipal hall itself is a 14th Century building, renovated in the 19th century, noted for its portico, steps, loggia, and campanile (bell tower).

Other churches include San Agostino, a Gothic church, the interior of which contain a few interesting frescoes, and Santa Maria Argentea, the City's Duomo, built in the Renaissance style.

During the 16th Century, when the city was still firmly within the Papal States, a small fortress, or Castellina was built to impress itself upon the good citizens of Norcia.  It now houses the City Museum, which contains a number of interesting artifacts and documents from Roman and Medieval times.

Agriculture, food processing (remember the Norcineria!) and cottage crafts are the mainstays of Norcia's modern economy.

Tourism also plays an essential role in Norcia.  Nowadays, Italian sportsmen and visitors from other parts of the world use Norcia as a base from which to pursue various activities in the mountains, which are among the highest in the Appenines, including mountaineering, hiking, trail riding, camping and hunting.

Those looking for clean air, a peaceful atmosphere and renowned Umbrian hospitality won't be disappointed.  Without a doubt, Norcia is a place you won't mind spending a day - or two!

by Vian Andrews, September 17th, 2005

Umbria Region

4248N 1306E

Directions

Car:  Norcia is 47 km (29 mi) NE of Spoleto and 40 km (25 mi) W of Arquata del Tronto.
Train/Bus: main routes from Rome.
Air: fly to Rome

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Statue of San Benedetto, Norcia