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Area:
  • 50,57 sq. km
Altitude:
  • 135 m a.s.l.
Population:
  • 11,355
Town Hall:
  • Corso Paolino d Aquileia, 2
  • 33043 - Cividale del Friuli (UD)
Neighbourhoods:
  • Carraria, Fornalis, Gagliano, Grupignano,, Purgessimo, Rualis, Rubignacco, Sanguarzo, Spessa
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Founded by the Romans around 50 BC with the name of Forum Iulii (which later on came to identify the whole of Friuli), Cividale del Friuli is renown for being the “Lombards’ city” owing to the innumerable treasures related to Lombard domination. The city boasts several monuments, first of all the Duomo which, although often modified in the centuries, still shows the traits of the original design of the building erected in the 15th century on the site of a sacred building that had existed since 737. The façade built by Bartolomeo delle Cisterne since 1453, was completed by Pietro Lombardo in 1503. The interior with nave, aisles and raised presbytery, is the result of the changes brought about by Giorgio Massari and his disciple Bernardino Maccaruzzi in the 18th century. The Duomo contains notable works of art: a 15th-century Vesperbild of German school, paintings by Matteo Ponzone (Enthroned Virgin with Saints, 1617), Palma the Younger (Stoning of St. Stephen and Last Supper, 1606), Pomponio Amalteo (Annunciation, 1546), frescoes in the vestry by Giuseppe Diziani and Giuseppe Mattioni. Remarkable are also the Monument to Patriarch Nicolò Donato (Giovanni Antonio di Bernardino da Carona, 1513), a large wooden Crucifix (18th cent.), and the equestrian monument to Marcantonio di Manzano (Girolamo Paleario, 1621). On the high altar is the late 12th-century Pellegrino II’s silver altarpiece, a spectacular piece (cm 102×203) in thick embossed silver leaf gilded on fire, which constitutes one of the gems of Italian jeweller’s art. A door in the left aisle leads into the Christian Museum (Museo Cristiano) exhibiting two absolute masterpieces of the Lombard period: the Altar of Ratchis, parallelepipedal in shape with exquisite bas-relief portrayals of Maiestas Domini, Visitation, Adoration of the Magi and the Baptistery of Callisto, with its elegant harmonious arches, showing on the parapet Sigvaldo’s Frontal with symbols of the  Evangelists. Unique in its kind is the so-called Lombard Temple (Tempietto Longobardo), datable to the mid-8th century, still preserving large fragments of the original decorations and later 14th-century frescoes, apart from stucco decorations (where stucco was made of a mixture of plaster, lime and marble powder) in which horizontal stripes with stylised roses frame, huddled onto the wall, the statues of six women Saints of excellent quality; moreover, the unframed archivolt is splendidly decorated with a spiralled vine shoot carrying bunches of grapes and vine leaves. Other outstanding monuments are the churches of S. Francesco, with 14th-century frescoes, of S. Biagio (14th- and 15th-century frescoes), and of S. Pietro (showing a lovely altarpiece by Palma the Younger). But Palazzo Brosadola, with a large cycle of frescoes by Francesco Chiarottini (1785),Palazzo Levrini with its 16th-century painted façade and the medieval house in the street leading to the Tempietto must not be slighted either. An unusual monument is instead the Celtic Hypogeum (Ipogeo celtico), a singular wet underground vault with rough sculpted masks. Elegant in its soaring lines is the Devil’s Bridge (Ponte del Diavolo) over River Natisone, with two daring bays and single pilaster resting on a rock in the river. It dates from the 15th century and owes its name to a curious legend according to which it was built overnight by the devil in exchange for the soul of a Cividale inhabitant. A visit to Fàrie Geretti, the old smithery in the Stretta della Giudaica, open to the public since 1999, is a must, too. The city also boasts several churches, most of them rich in works of art. Interesting 14th- and 15th-century frescoes (the oldest – St. Ludovico and Saints – due to workers from Rimini, while others are probably by Friulian artists following Vitale’s style) decorate the choir and nave walls in the Gothic church of S. Francesco which, for the simplicity of lines and purity of spaces is considered one of the greatest examples of Franciscan architecture in Friuli. In the vestry is a 1693 cycle of frescoes by Giulio Quaglio from Lombardy. 14th-century frescoes portraying episodes from the life of S. Biagio decorate the small cupola of the left chapel of the church of S. Biagio, charming for its location on River Natisone. Always in the chapel, a much damaged 15th-century cycle of the months is still visible in the base. The church of S. Giovanni in Xenodochio (an ancient word indicating a “pilgrims’ hospice”) used to have two paintings by Paolo Veronese, now in the Archaeological Museum, though there remain a large marble altar with statues by Jacopo Contiero and some 18th-century paintings in the presbytery. In the Church of SS. Silvestro and Valentino are frescoes by Pietro Venier (1700s), in that of S. Pietro ai Volti is a large painting portraying the Saviour and SS. Sebastian and Rocco realized by Palma the Younger around 1606 on the occasion of the plague the city had suffered in 1598. A notable altarpiece by Nicola Grassi (ca. 1740) is preserved in the church of S. Martino, where the altar of Ratchis once used to be. Finally, the partly porticoed Piazza Paolo Diacono is worth a visit, the real heart of the city on which an old house fronts that is believed to have been the house of the great Lombard writer.

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