March 18, 2016 – Viterbo and on to Siena Part I

Often I am accused of over-planning. For me half the excitement of a trip is the anticipation. So I am enthused about what we are doing even before we go! There is always room for some spur of the moment adventures in any case. Today we really enjoy ourselves in two towns off the tourist beaten track.

This morning we go into Viterbo. The reason we are in Viterbo is that we wanted a stopover somewhere about an hour and a half north of Rome. I did not want John to have to drive all the way to Siena after being awake for more than 24 hours. Our chance encounter with Viterbo turns out to be a good one.

After driving into the old part of the city we find a parking lot and head off on foot up and down the narrow, steep streets. We are looking for the cathedral and the papal palace. Sarah is our tour guide.

Sarah, map inhand, guides us through the maze of narrow streets.
Sarah, map in hand, guides us through the maze of narrow streets.

We finally find our way to the cathedral where all sorts of uniformed men and women are streaming into the church. A sign says, “No turisti!” We discover that today, the one morning that we have to see the cathedral, is the day that uniformed people are having a special mass and blessing.

Cathedral of San Lorenzo on armed forces benediction day
Cathedral of San Lorenzo on armed forces benediction day

Okay, we will look around at the other buildings in the piazza. One is the papal palace. Viterbo acted as an alternative site for the papacy during the 13th century. Here’s a funny story about it.

“One of the best stories about the Viterbo popes is of an election for the papacy in 1268. 18 cardinals dutifully assembled in the bishop’s palace, but after a year and a half they still hadn’t managed to choose between candidates. The Viterbesi, exasperated, locked the cardinals in their conclave (the word comes from the Latin ‘with key’), reduced them to bread and water rations and even removed the roof of the palace. Eventually the cardinals made their decision, but it had taken nearly three years – the longest ever conclave.”

Papal palace
Papal palace with merlons
Loggia next to the papal palace
Loggia next to the papal palace
A view of the city walls from the loggia
A view of the city walls from the loggia

Finally it is10AM and the little museum that holds artworks and artifacts of the cathedral opens. We, of course, are eager to see and identify the various saints and situations in the artwork.

A reliquary claiming to hold the jaw of John the Baptist
A reliquary claiming to hold the jaw of John the Baptist
Part of a Roman statue seeming to be rising out of the ground
Part of a Roman statue seeming to be rising out of the ground
An Etruscan sarcophagus
An Etruscan sarcophagus
The goddess of abundance - according to the information card she either has a lot of breasts or bulls' testicles
The goddess of abundance – according to the information card she either has a lot of breasts or bulls’ testicles
Madonna del carbonara - painted in the late 12th or early 13th century
John reading the tag on the Madonna del carbonara  painted in the late 12th or early 13th century
St. Lawrence with his grill and St. Stephen holding a rock
St. Lawrence with his grill and St. Stephen holding a rock. St. Lawrence was martyred on a grill over a fire and St. Stephen was martyred by being beat in the head with rocks.

After finishing up the museum we find the car park and hurry back to the hotel to check out and begin our way to Siena.

Part 2 to follow

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s