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Romanesque Itinerary - S.Maria della Lode at Vescovio
how to get there:
  • Leave the Roma - Firenze motorway at the exit "Magliano Sabina"
  • Follow the Flaminia road towards Civita Castellana for about 3 km and turn left at the crossroad for Torri in Sabina.
  • After about 10-15 minutes there is a turning to the left for S. Maria in Vescovio
S. Maria in Vescovio is situated in the district of Torri in Sabina. To find out more about this district, see the page for Torri in Sabina.

For the moment, the Romanesque Itinerary can only be visited by appointment, to book call:

Information centre:

Vescovio -Bas-relief with Christian symbols

Vescovio -Bas-relief with Christian symbols

The Diocese of the Sabina
The formation of the Diocese of the Sabina was essentially completed in the 10th century, the result of a long and complex operation involving the reaggregation of the territories of the early Christian dioceses of Nomentum, of Cures Sabini, which held the original title, and of Forum Novum.

From 781 and for much of the early Middle Ages, at least for the Papacy, the diocese acted as a sort of counterbalance to the influence of the abbey of Farfa which was under Imperial patronage. The cathedral church and the bishopric rose in isolation among the ruins of the ancient Roman town of Forum Novum, visited by the inhabitants of the neighbouring castelli and villages only on the occasion of religious festivals.

The end of the 11th century marked the inevitable decline of the influence of the abbey of Farfa in the area. The Papacy had begun to extend its dominion over the entire territory of the diocese, which was controlled by an increasingly dense network of castra specialia, themselves under the direct control of the Papacy, which eventually absorbed the Farfa possessions.

At the beginning of the 12th century Pope Pasqual II put into effect a more decisive strategy to ensure, once and for all, Papal control over the Sabina. One of the most important elements of this plan was an intensive campaign of building and the reconstruction of churches in the Romanesque style, such as for example the cathedral church itself, Santa Maria della Lode at Vescovio, Santa Maria Assunta at Tarano, San Pietro ai Muricento at Montebuono and Santa Maria Assunta at Fianello.

Left wall: Last supper

Parete di sinistra: Annunciazione
Left wall: Annunciation

Left wall: Crucifixion

Last Judgement

detail of Last Judgement

detail of Crucifixion

Forum Novum
In the territory of Torri, at a place called Vescovio, lie the ruins of the ancient Roman town of Forum Novum, founded probably during the 2nd century BC. The settlement was built on an alluvial terrace near the confluence of two rivers, and at the crossroads of two secondary roads which Iinked the new centre both to the Via Flaminia and the Via Salaria.

Municipal status seems to bave been granted to Forum Novum only in the Augustan period. The inscriptions are our most valuable source of information for the political and social life of the town.
The gods worshipped in the area included Jupiter Optimus Maximus, Isis, Serapis and Harpocrates, Mercury, Venus, who had a temple dedicated to her, Fortuna, Vacuna, Lares and Di Penates.

There are numerous dedications to emperors, such as Gordian III, or to the relatives of emperors, such as Drusus and Germanicus. The inscriptions also mention an aqueduct, built by a private citizen, which supplied both a fountain and the baths.

Numerous traces of the ancient town can still be seen today. Excavations carried out some decades ago have brought to light a large part of the monumental public area of the settIement, including the forum, the basilica, some shops, and a temple, while along the roads one can still see the remains of funerary monuments and the arches of an aqueduct.

The cathedral of the Sabina is of particular interest. The building, which has been restored several times, still preserves the main lines and pIan of the Romanesque construction of the early 12th century. In the walIs of the bell tower one can see numerous fragments of reused early medieval sculpture, dating between the end of the 8th and the beginning of the 9th century, along with other material such as inscriptions, marble slabs, brick and tile, taken from the ruins of the Roman city.

The interior, with its single nave, has not suffered from later alterations or rebuilding, largely as a result of the removal of the bishopric to the town of Magliano Sabino in 1495 and the consequent loss of importance of the church of Vescovio. The cycle of frescoes along the walIs of the nave is spectacular. Carried out in the early fourteenth century by masters of the school of Cavalli, originally thirty two scenes were illustrated. The right wall depicts scenes from the Old Testament, although unfortunately today some of the paintings are almost indecipherable. The left wall illustrates scenes from the New Testament, although again these have now in part vanished.
The fresco on the interior of the facade is a magnificent Last Judgement. This was a popular subject in church decoration along the Tiber valley, for example, in the frescoes of Santa Maria in Trasponte at Fiano.

In the altars of the transept and the pulpit, slabs of the early medieval choir have been reused. These are beautifully worked with interlaced decoration and Christian symbols. On the marble top of the main altar one can see the signatures of the many faithful.

The oratory crypt is well preserved. It was probably constructed in the 10th century when the church was rebuilt following the fire caused by the Saracens. The semi-annular ambulatory leads to a short straight corridor and to the subterranean altar, which is Iinked to the upper altar by the fenestella confessionis. The top of the underground altar consists of a reused marble slab with an inscription of the early 15th century.

On the hill above the church one can still see the impressive ruins of the castrum domini episcopi, this was abandoned and restored several times during the Middle Ages, the last time at the end of the 13th century, before being transformed into an Augustinian convent.


Continue the Romanesque Itinerary - S. Maria Assunta at Tarano

Territorio dell'Agro Foronovano Sabino-Umbro
Provincia di Rieti Provincia di Terni

Texts Tersilio Leggio -Direttore del Museo di Farfa
versione inglese Helen Patterson Assistant Director (Archaeology) The British School at Rome

Giovanna Alvino Soprintendenza Archeologica del Lazio
Mariasanta Valenti Soprintendenza Beni Ambientali e Architettonici del Lazio
Claudio Blasetti Soprintendenza Beni Ambientali e Architettonici del Lazio
Alia Englen Soprintendenza Beni Artistici e Storici del Lazio

Regione Lazio Consorzio dei Comuni dell'Agro Foronovano
Banca di Credito Cooperativo di Roma
Gruppo Cassa Rurale ed Artigiana di Roma



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