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The city


Medieval Castle

The present building is the result of several rebuildings and repairs, the last made necessary after a devastating aerial bombing during the Second World War. The church is named after the patron St Felix, whom the legend points at as bishop and martyr of the ancient Civitas Martana. Felix lived and preached in his town at the time of the emperors Diocletian and Massimiano. In order to repress the spread of Christianity, these emperors sent the prefect Tarquinio to Martana , who questioned Felix and then invited him to apostasy. Tarquinio did not manage to persuade him and eventually convicted him to be tortured and burned to death. Felix, however, came out endured from this torture and was in the end beheaded in foro Civitatis Martanae by the headsman Sevibo. During the night some Christians stole the martyr’s corpse and buried it in that very place where today stands an old church, named after the bishop of Martana.


The façade is made of blocks of squared stones and is divided into four panels, completed above by a cornice and by a false balustrade. From the balustrade rises a Baroch bell tower, built in 1637 with the contribution of the cardinal Barberini. A plain but elegant portal let the visitor in the vast inside, consisting of a nave covered by a big barrel vault. Mighty pillars leaning against the walls support a line of arcades that break the monotony of the inside. Very interesting is the main altar in Baroch style, rich of architectures and wooden carvings. A valuable painting by Giacinto Boccanera da Leonessa, dated 1723, representing aMadonna holding the ostensory among the Blessed Ruggero, St Felix, St Rita and St Pio V is found there.

NIn two big niches on the wall left to the entrance are two frescos of the 16thcentury: the first respresents aCrucifixion, the second a Madonna on a throne with Child between St Rocco and St Ambrogio.

In the inside is a set of fescos from the 15th century. Among them a Madonna with Child, of very fine workmanship, and a Madonna with Child between St Sebastian and San Bernardino da Siena, of the Folignate school.

There are also a big Cross made of madreperla, some modest paintings from the 18th century and a painting dated 1957 and representing Christ’s baptism.

There is a lot of archeological evidence, coming from different times and places, documenting the human presence in the Martano territory since ancient times. From the peaks of Monte il Cerchio and Monte Schignano emerged some remains of prehistoric settlements, small fortresses built in an elevated position to take advantage of the natural defensive potential of the sites. So-called lithic tools have surfaced also in other parts of the territory, stone objects processed by humans to meet the different needs that daily life, then it is very hard, required.  The development of permanent settlements, related to people of Umbria and then prior to Romanization, is proved by five graves, dating from the eighth and third centuries BC, found on a hill near the church  of Santa Maria della Pace and the mighty remains of the walls in square work in the locality Monticastri.  The construction of the Via Flaminia, built in 220 BC, guaranteed to Umbria an important opportunity for growth and prosperity, becoming an integral part of the path that connected Rome to the Adriatic ports.  The original route of the consular road, in the stretch from Narni to Bevagna, crossed the western foothills of the Monti Martani; the present-day territory of Massa, until then populated by small scattered settlements of rural character presumably, was organized to best meet the changed conditions.  The construction of the statio to Martis, to be identified on the site now occupied by the church of Santa Maria in Pantano, not far from Massa  Martana, provided rest and refreshment to the armies and travelers in transit.  The statio, mentioned  in many examples such as the Route of the pots Vicarello (I sec.), The Antonine Itinerary (II sec.) And  Peutingeriana (V sec.), Consolidated in time its importance, so as to not be scratched by the construction  of the diverticulum east of the Via Flaminia, which, passing through Spoleto, the downfall of many centers.  The expression "ad Martis" is to be understood as "to Fanum Martis", ie near the temple of Mars; the building, and the  worship of the god of war, qualified then the entire area. It has not yet been possible to locate the site of the temple itself.  The statio, landmark throughout the area, progressed to Vicus Martis, a real town whose name, as well as the rest of the land, is once again tied to Mars and the presence of the temple to him dedicated.

The Vicus appears in several Roman inscriptions found in the martana area that recall: Vicani Vici Martissodales martenses,  collegium iumentariorum,  sacrum Nympharum. However, epigraphic and archaeological remains prevents the progressive evolution of the Vicus Martis. They make  plausible to imagine a town constantly growing, constantly fed by economic interests due to the Via Flaminia. Throughout its long history, the consular underwent restoration designed to ensure maximum functionality. In this area there are two inscriptions relating to these restore operations: one, now preserved in the soffit of the main gateway of Massa Martana, recalled the work carried out during Adriano (117-138), the other , now lost but known through numerous sources, those promoted by his successor Antonino Pio (138-161).

The road was also related to the construction of impressive works such as bridges and viaducts, aimed at overcoming the many obstacles interposed by the natural environment. In the territory of M. Martani was erected the monumental bridge Fonnaia, restored in the Augustan period (27 AD). The bold structure, made of squared blocks of travertine of various sizes, consists of a single arc reaches a width of 15 meters and a height of about 8 meter. The numerous coins with the portraits of the emperors Traiano, Adriano , Antonino Pio and Septtimo Severo found in this area and now preserved in various museums in Umbria, suggesting the long season of prosperity experienced by the Vicus Martis. The town was the center around which revolved the whole country, which still remained characterized by numerous other scattered settlements, presumably modest in size, called villae, devoted to agricultural activity. To confirm this widespread settlement system remain the many columbaria found in very different places.

Over time the Martani area has the returned numerous testimonies concerning its long history, especially during the Roman . Many of these have migrated to museums in other cities, and deprived of the link with the environment that produced them, they inevitably lost their deeper meaning, such as a fine white marble statue depicting a female deity, perhaps Venus, which, after various vicissitudes, has arrived in the Vatican Museums in Rome.

Many other archaeological finds have gone to meet a fate even more demeaning and they are completely untraceable. Yet, even if deprived of evidence that surely would have made simplify the difficult task of rebuilding the history of these places, the territory of Massa Martana still betrays its ancient Roman garment, mainly due to the long and imposing sections of the Via Flaminia resurface almost suddenly giving images a strong suggestion. The consular road ensured the rapid spread of Christianity, accepted with immediate participation by local communities. Several hagiographic stories have passed down the names of many saints and martyrs related to the Vicus Martis, brutally killed for defending their beliefs and immediately the object of profound devotion popular: Brizio (first century), Felice, Fidenzio and Terenzio, Illuminata, Mauro, Asello and Lorenzo, Faustino (fourth century) and the magister militum Severo (V century). Near the bridge is visible Fonnaia the only Christian catacomb found in Umbria, developed between the fourth and fifth century. The simplicity of the burials, over three hundred, mostly in niche and devoid of decoration, and the absence of epigraphic material witness a destination exclusively linked to the rural population living in the area. Reading the passiones of the martyrs mentioned just above, it is evident a very important aspect: you do not mention the most Vicus Martis but Martana Civitas, a clear sign of the further development experienced by the town between the third and fourth secolo. San Brizio and San Felice include even as bishops of Civitas, the urban reality that, in the absence of others, and some witnesses, escapes any possibility of historical reconstruction. The heartfelt devotion of the faithful guaranteed burial to the bodies of the martyrs sacrificed themselves for the defense of the Christian faith. The sarcophagi of the saints were first kept in small chapels that, with the passage of time, assumed ever greater and more solemn forms, to become the imposing churches that still characterize the territory martano, forming a fascinating network of abbeys mostly the Romanesque period (XI-XII century.). Meanwhile the Via Flaminia followed the downward trend of the Roman Empire and, like similar roads, was exploited by those barbarians whose invasions decreed the fall of Rome.

The Vicus Martis did not remain  to these terrible events, and was devastated by the Visigoths. The Italian territory was gradually turning into a battlefield and for a long period (535-553) became the scene of terrible war between the Goths and Byzantines, during which the Flaminia was one of the roads most used by the armies. Forced by these terrible events, the population of the Vicus Martis abandoned that site that guarantee prosperity in the past, now exposed to more and more dangerous risks. The tops of the surrounding hills offered a better chance of safety and thus they were chosen to build those first fortified settlements which derive from the medieval castles of Massa Martana today and its fractions. Difficult to determine what happened during the so-called early Middle Ages, all too often, given the lack of historical documentation, wound up too easily for a long period of neglect and depopulation. In fact, the abundance of churches and Benedictine monasteries, together with that of fortified offshore centers localized on the western side of the Martani, suggest that this territory belonged to the powerful Lombard duchy of Spoleto, who saw fit to include in their possessions as a highly strategic. All 'Lombard period, namely between the seventh and eighth centuries, is also to report the birth of the castle of Massa, a well-established tradition, on the other hand for a long time to X-XI century, attributing the foundation to Arnolfi, feudal lords of a vast territory straddling the Martani. A confirmation of the origin of the Lombard village, comes to the rescue the name Massa, with this frequency in the vocabulary used by this population, to indicate a set of fortified dwellings.

In the tenth century Massa Martana did actually part of the vast fief of Arnolfi in 1094 and was surrounded by new walls just by their descendant, Raniero di Bonaccorso, from which originated the branch of the noble family Fonzi Bonaccorsi di Massa. This man had also build on top of Martani a lost fortress probably to be identified with that Turris montis Martan that appears in a document of 1115, relative to an exchange between accounts Ridolfo, Saraceno, Guillelmo, Hugolino, Bulgarello, Tybalt and the 'Berald abbot of Farfa. In 1277, at the behest of the Bishop of Todi Bentivegna, Massa Martana was protected by new walls, wider than its predecessor. Then began a long period of struggle in which Massa Martana surrounding castles and tried to defend its autonomy from the sights of the city of Todi. In 1305 the Ghibellines of Todi besieged Massa, exhausted, he could count on the providential intervention of Perugia and Benedict XI. The castle Massa turned his appeals to Boniface IX, in 1397, freed him from the jurisdiction of Todi and placed under the direct protection of the Holy See. The same pope, in 1403, made a sensational step back, handing Massa. The sources point out the courage of the population that, on several occasions, it opposed the authority of Todi. Moved by an extraordinary sense of autonomy and independence, Massetani in 1473 turned to Pope Sisto IV, who, though at first seemed to listen to their demands. Alexander VI Massa put under the governance of the College of Clerics. Sacked in 1516 on the orders of the papal governor of Todi for not wanting to stay some military departments of the church, in 1565 the Apostolic Chamber, behind the generous compensation of 23,000 gold crowns, gave the castle to Todi. The Massetani did not give any case for losers, and that same year, obtained the annulment of the sale by paying a ransom to the Apostolic Chamber of 11,000 gold crowns. The enormous sacrifice, partly excused for intervention of Pope Pius V, who was honored as patron for this and benefactor, guaranteed in Massa Martana the longed-for freedom. To protect the independence finally obtained in 1571 the Massetani you give the protection of the College of Cardinals and reformed the municipal statute, a precious source of information to learn about the ancient administrative organization of '"Illustrious Earth Mass in Umbria." The precious text affects some respects quite modern, especially the very short duration of mandates held by the main public offices, designed to prevent the assertion of personal powers intended to harm the collective management and garantista. The mayor had jurisdiction over civil, criminal and administrative and lasted in office for six months, flanked him two mayors, four a priori and the Council of Ten. The charges were assigned by the General Council, consisting of all heads of families residing in the town.'sorting of 1571, except for a brief interruption during the period Napoleon remained in force until 1860.

The famous plebiscite of that same year declared the annexation of the village to the Kingdom of Italy. By Royal Decree of 29 march 1863 take the name of Massa Martana that proudly placing the emphasis on two key moments of its long history, the Roman (Martana) and medieval (Massa), expresses with great effectiveness the very essence of his being.


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Historical residences
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holiday home
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