The origins of the Castle of Montignano date back to 962 when Otto I of Saxony was crowned in Milan as Emperor of Germany and King of  Italy by Pope John XII and he immediately tried to gain the loyalty [...]
Villa San Faustino
The castle of Villa San Faustino was part of the Terre Arnolfe in the tenth and eleventh centuries (mentioned in documents of the abbey of Farfa 1115 and 1118). The castle, connected to the important parish chu [...]
Castle built between 1300 and 1400, it still preserves its medieval structure. Of particular interest is the medieval main door near the small church of San Bernardino. Above the church of San Bernardino is sit [...]
The castle of Mezzanelli has followed the fortunes of the various rulers who handled its political life. Once part of Terre Arnolfe, the castle was cited in documents from 1115 and 1118 (Earls Ridolfo, Saraceno [...]
Castel Rinaldi
Medieval village built in 1160 by a certain "Rinaldo Duke of Calabria", Castel Rinaldi was part of the fief of the Arnolfi. Constantly part of Guelph, Castel Rinaldi was often the center of infighting that mark [...]
The fortified village of Viepri is wrapped in high hills, which ensured defense for centuries and still seem to hide it. Built after 1380 on the ruins of the demolished castle of Monte Schignano, its rule was t [...]
Martani Mountains
The Martani Mountains extend evenly from south to north for about 35 km between the provinces of Perugia and Terni. They border to the east on the Umbrian Valley and Valserra, to the west on th [...]
The village is today very different from what must have appeared in the Middle Ages. Today only some ruins of the fortified village remain, hidden by vegetation. Literature attest it as one of the most [...]

The Via Flaminia Vetus…between Rome and the Middle Ages

Km 6,5 – itinerary feasible by bicycle or motor vehicle.

This is the itinerary that best describes Massa Martana and its peculiarities. It covers the area south of the village and follows the ancient roman road “Via Flaminia” . The itinerary starts from the church of "Santa Maria in Pantano”, located just along the Via Flaminia, in the place of the ancient Vicus martis Tudertium, (interesting remains were unearthed during recent archaeological explorations started in 2008). During the Middle Ages the church became a religious hub for the area and still preserves today its original Romanesque style, built with blocks of travertine and pink and white limestone. The itinerary continue to the right, going to Montignano, an ancient feud of the Arnolfi family. The village preserves, almost in its entirety, the medieval urban structure, now occupied by a "Relais" hotel. Proceeding towards Villa San Faustino it is possible to visit the Abbey of San Faustino one of the many Benedictine centers in the area: the abbey is built on top of the ruins of a roman villa and can be visited upon request (contact details???). The most interesting archaeological sites of this area are located on the final part  of the itinerary; they can be reached  following  the municipal road towards Massa Martana Scalo and once arrived in Massa Martana Scalo follow the tourist signs towards  the two sites of interest. The first site is place of historical importance in Umbria, the “Catacombe Cristiane”, the only monument of this kind so far discovered in the region. The underground cemetery is open to visitors by appointment (contact information?). The second site and also the last stop of the itinerary is the “Ponte Fonnaia”:  you can reach it with a short walk descending from the Catacombs, and continuing right along a path in the countryside. The bridge is a powerful roman road construction, made of big travertine  blocks.  The imposing structure is located in an beautiful rural environment. Close-by in the same area there was also a lignite mine that have been  active for several decades during the XX century.





Insights: Itinerary 1


An ancient Roman road that passed through Umbria, from Otricoli to Scheggia, the Via Flaminia was used both as a trade and a military route. It connected Rome to the Adriatic Sea, passing through the Apennines. Bridges and substructures carried it over rivers and uneven ground, an outstanding engineering feat that facilitated the Romanization of Umbria. But the impact of this superb work went further. It also spurred a unifying tendency, leading the Umbrian populations to abandon the ancient schemes based on a village-centered culture in the name of a different use of the territory and a new cultural belonging. The consular road, (the first of the Roman Viae publicae to the North) made by the censor Caio Flaminio in 220 BC, connected Rome to the Adriatic ports and Northern Italy, going in its original route from Narnia to Mevania, on the western foothills of the Monti Martani.

The road was built using and adapting previous routes that Umbrians used for transhumance and travels. It was eighteen Roman miles from Narnia to the Statio ad Martis, near the church of Santa Maria in Pantano: the Vicus Martis, solidly attested in many Roman inscriptions found in the area.

From the third century this first route of the Via Flaminia began to be subject to variations, made for economic purposes, which led to Terni, Spoleto and Forum Flaminii, (near the present Foligno).

The two paths forked at the beginning of the Martani mountains after the Flaminia vetus crossed Carsulae and reached, after the Statio ad Martis, the Vicus ad Martis (Today Massa Martana). The life and prosperity of the Vicus Martis were closely tied to the fate of the Flaminia as proved by several epigraphic and archaeological remains.

There are wo interesting epigraphies about the restoration of the route: the first refers to the Emperor Antonino Pio, the latter, preserved under the arch of the city door of Massa Martana, is by Emperor Adriano and was found near the ruined church of San Giacomo, along the Via Flaminia

After the fall of Roman Empire the western route of the Via Flaminia was abandoned and decayed, but the area was not excluded from transit because it was between the new path and the Via Amerina. In the early Middle Age it was an important road of connection between Rome and Ravenna, as shown by the ruins of Montecastro, probably a temple related to an Umbrian cult and later become a castrum in defense of the underlying Via Flaminia. Many materials were reused throughout the area: numerous columbaria remained unknown for a long time and the Romanesque churches built over pagan temples dedicated to the gods Apollo, Ceres, Mercury and Mars. The latter took its name from the nearby mountains and the surrounding area, rich of brick and pottery fragments which continually come to light during farm work.



The church of Santa Maria in Pantano is one of the oldest and most interesting Umbrian churches. According to an old legend, it was edified in the 5th century by the magister militumSevero on the remains of a building or of a pagan temple of CivitasMartana . Actually, the church occupies the space of a late imperial building, whose side masonry, in opus reticulatum, is still visible on the right side of the church.The opus recurs also outside in a wall parallel to the same side.

More likely the church consisted at first only of a big hall and a apse, which was common place of churches built between the 7th and 8th century. This means that the presbyteral and apsidal area, slightly raised and in opus spicatum masonry, were added to the original Roman building. Between the 10th and 11th century the hall was divided into a nave and two aisles, maybe in order to reduce the capacity load of the structure. The nave partition walls are founded on four arcades, which are substained by travertin columns. Their capitels have the shape of overturned truncated pyramids. On the partition walls, above, are also false women's galleries. This partition was not completed in the apsidal area; the old apse, which is bigger than the present nave, was left untouched. On the outside walls of the apse are wide arcades, reminiscent of decorative patterns used in the lagoon of Venice. Because of its rough masonry in opus spicatum, the apse can be considered as the oldest Umbrian apse after the early Christian churches. As annexe to the church was then built a monastery, governed by the Benedictines. They reclaimed the place, which was often flooded by the stream Tribbio, as the toponym in pantano ("pantano"= swamp) clearly indicates. The church was under the abbey of Farfa, as shown by a document of Farfa dated 1115. The church had been given actually to the monastery, together with some grounds and castles, by the count Rapizzone in 1104. A document by Emperor Henry V dated 1118 confirms this ownership. The façade, built in the 14th or 15th century, does not match, from a stylistic point of view, with the Roman side walls, and is sharply slanted forward. Its plain, rectangular structure is embellished with a pointed portal, made of alternate red and white ashlars with marble cornice, and a beautiful rosette.In the inside, which is divided into a nave and two aisles, are preserved cinerary urns, several inscriptions and Roman decorative fragments. Remarkable are: the big Corinthian capital, reutilized as support of the last right arcade; the fragments of the old mosaic floor and of the floor in opus spicatum, which have been recently found during restauration works; the big cippus with the inscription mentioning Vicani Vici Martis, reutilized as base for the main altar.

Worth noting are also the frescos on the walls (photographs 1, 2). On the left one are some fragments of frescos and a beautiful wooden Crucifix from the 13th century; on the first column is a sinopia which represents a Saint who is holding a papyrus; over the altar in the right aisle a painting which represents Madonna with Child between St Barbara and St Anthony Abbot (photographs 3, 4) from the 15th century, by Niccolò di Vannuccio; on the back wall is a fresco which portrays St Anthony Abbot, St Peter, St Fortunato e St Onofrio (photographs 5, 6) form the 14th century; in the middle of the apse is a Madonna with Child (14th-15th century). The figures of St Felix and St Benedict were subsequently added to the painting. On the left is a Crucifixion with St Severo and St Francis (17th century). On the right-hand side of the façade, next to a tall Roman wall, rises a square tower with medieval, small arches crowning from the 14th century.

Curiosity: To the left of the church, in the outside wall of the ex-monastery, is a Roman funeral urn embeded in the wall, with a bas-relief which represents Iphigenia's sacrifice: on the left is a naked, male figure who is pulling another figure towards him. This one is wearing a himation on his head and maybe represents Agamennon. There are also a tree, a man holding a smaller figure by the hair who is trying to flee (this may represent Iphigenia), an altar with symbols and three warriers armed with spears. It should be noted that the tower and the façade of the church of Santa Maria in Pantano are not in line with the modern road but with the right one, which follows the route of the ancient Flaminia Way.

Curiosity: Not far from here, along the ancient Via Flaminia, there is a large funerary monument of the Roman. Repeated illegal excavations are a problem, and the monument consists only in a central block in concrete. The mausoleum is linked to an ancient legend: there would be a hidden treasure consists of a cow with seven golden calves.

The legend is known in various localities of the area and makes this place full of mystery and charm. This is also the cause of many unauthorized excavations. Near the mausoleum was found a second tomb consists of[FL1]  entire base of large blocks of travertine.


Vicus Martis Tudertium

In 2008, with the permission of the Ministry of Culture and under the supervision of the Archaeological Superintendence of Umbria ( Dr.. Paolo Bruschetti)§, the first investigation started, conducted by a group of American students from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, led by Professor John Muccigrosso and assisted by a team of archaeologists of the Intrageo of Todi. The digging brought to light a number of buildings with the outer walls in an excellent state of preservation, proving the existence of the vicus (residential facility, small structures often located around key communication hubs) which size covered an area of approximately seven hectares. The site of the Vicus ad Martis Tudertium is located on the western branch of the ancient Via Flaminia. The site’s name can be found in several ancient itineraries, including the 1st century Itinerarium Gaditanum, the 3rd century Antonine Itinerary, and the medieval Tabula Peutingeriana. Although today there is nothing above ground to mark the ancient site apart from the church of S. Maria in Pantano, built partly on an existing ancient building, several inscriptions suggested the identification of this site with the Vicus, including two embedded in the church tower and a third in use as part of the modern altar. Although we have performed some remote sensing beyond the immediate area of excavation, our digging has been so far confined to an area just north of the church, east of a modern road which runs roughly N-S and has been identified as following the course of the Via Flaminia.

Curiosity: To be remembered that the stations along the Roman roads were of three types: civitas, mansiones and mutationes. In the latter were the iunctores jumentarii for the changing of horses.

In the Vicus Martano remains a rare inscription that documenting the existence of a collegium jumentarii.


Pink stone of San Terenziano: Another endemic feature is a mudstone made by carbonatic rosks and used in construction. The pink stone of San Terenziano is a particularly valuable stone used for finishes, furniture and interior accessories. It 'an ancient art that is known by the few stonemasons who still pass on the craft. The red scale is a marine sedimentary rock composed of flint limestone, fine-grained, more or less marly, predominantly reddish color that can go with white, yellow to deep red. The red coloration comes from the dispersion in the limestone mass of iron oxides (hematite and limonites); locally dyed some whitish discoloration may be due to secondary.The limestones of the red scale are always a dense and regular stratification and were deposited between 90 and 55 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous, Eocene and partially lower.

Ammonitico Rosso

 It is characterized by limestones and marly limestones with nodular texture, characterized  by a considerable

frequency of ammonite fossils, and the color red or rosé (but are also frequent tones green and violet) due to

oxidation of iron (Fe3 +). Although in the past this type of rock has often been used for construction (in particular the one coming from Veronese and widespread throughout Italy), nowadays its extraction is primarily for ornamental use, both indoor and outdoor, due to the beauty of its nuances, ranging from red-violet to pink-coral, yellow and green. Its use is prevalent in flooring, but it is also used for assembling stairs, panels, columns, balusters, posts, frames, fireplaces and works of sculpture. The use of limestone in the building in facies of rosso ammonitico is linked to the carbonate content: the higher it is, the more it improves the mechanical characteristics.



Ammonites  are an extinct group of marine invertebrate animals in the subclass Ammonoidea of the class Cephalopoda. These molluscs are more closely related to living coleoids (i.e. octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish) than they are to shelled nautiloids such as the living Nautilus species. The earliest ammonites appear during the Devonian, and the last species died out during the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. The name "ammonite", from which the scientific term is derived, was inspired by the spiral shape of their fossilized shells, which somewhat resemble tightly coiled rams' horns. Pliny the Elder (d. 79 AD near Pompeii) called fossils of these animals ammonis cornua ("horns of Ammon") because the Egyptian god Ammon (Amun) was typically depicted wearing ram's horns.[1] Often the name of an ammonite genus ends in -ceras, which is Greek (κέρας) for "horn".


Travertine and Calcareous tufa

Calcareous tufa or travertine is a variety of limestone, formed by the precipitation of carbonate minerals from ambient temperature water bodies. Geothermally heated hot-springs sometimes produce similar (but less porous) carbonate deposits known as travertine. Tufa is sometimes referred to as (meteogene) travertine;[1] care must be taken when searching through literature to prevent confusion with hot spring (thermogene) travertine.


The origins of the Castle of Montignano date back to 962 when Otto I of Saxony was crowned in Milan as Emperor of Germany and King of  Italy by Pope John XII and he immediately tried to gain the loyalty of feudal lords in central and southern Italy. A part of Umbria was assigned to Count Arnolfo, a German courtier and a relative of the Emperors, as his feudal domain as well as a region, called Arnolfa, which included Montignano. In the early years of the 16th century, the Atti family, feudal lords of the Casigliano Castle, extended their lands right up to the boundaries of Montignano which, until the 15th  century had belonged to the Matalucci family, a family of Guelph lineage, allies and relatives of the Atti family. The Castle was seriously damaged  by the passing of the French troops, and Todi’s municipality administration board deliberated on the 27th August 1577  that the population of Montignano was exempted from paying taxes due to the “damage suffered”. The San Giovanni Church contains a valuable painting of Our Lady of the Rosary by Bartolomeo Barbiani. Just outside the castle are the ruins (the outer walls and the apse semicircular in squared stone) of the ancient church of Santa Degna, documented since the thirteenth century. Of great interest is the large stone sarcophagus located behind the apse.


Curiosity: In 1577 Montignano and the surrounding land were devastated by the passage of some French mercenary troops. After the tragic facts the General Council of Todi decided to exempt the citizens from the payment of duties and taxes for four years!


Villa S. Faustino

The castle of Villa San Faustino was part of the Terre Arnolfe in the tenth and eleventh centuries (mentioned in documents of the abbey of Farfa 1115 and 1118). The castle, connected to the important parish church of San Faustino, was included in the thirteenth century among the possessions of the county of Todi.


Curiosity: On the day of San Faustino took place a big fair. Therefore in the statute of Todi of the year 1275 was established to send a judge of the "evil spells" with a notary and an armed escort in order to ensure public order of fair.



Abbazia di San Faustino

The abbey of San Faustino was edified on the remains of a Roman villa. Recent excavations have digged out its foundations and some rooms that were used for storing agricultural products. The church is named after St Faustino who, according to the legend, was disciple of the bishop of CivitasMartana, St Felix. Around the 8th century the Benedictines edified, on the saint's tomb, the church and the nearby monastery. These are mentioned as subordinate of the monastery of Farfa in several documents dated 1115 and 1118. Afterwards the church was converted into collegiate church for the secular clergy.

The façade, in the Lombard style but spoiled by a modern porch (1950), has an elegant mullioned window with three lights and marble small columns. Next to the window are, on the right side, an epigraph with the inscription of Lucius Julius Marcianus and his wife Publicia; on the left side, a fragment of Doric frieze with small roses and bucranesmetopes. Another fragment of the same frieze, which was embeded in a wall under a court window, has been recently moved inside the church.

The right side of the church is built on a high base made of travertin blocks; several semicircular pillars line it at regular intervals. Also the 13th century apse is semicircular in shape.

The aisleless inside, has been much reworked. It might have originally had a raised presbytery with underlying crypt. In the middle of the apse are, buried, two sarcophagi, one of them is venerated as St Faustino's. There are also several sculptural fragments from different time periods and several inscriptions. Among them very interesting is the one which mentions the call from Pope Pio II in December 1462.

Inside is a fresco by the painter Sebastiano Florii da Arezzo, which portrays the Madonna of Rosary (1580).

 Worth noting are the simple and rustic structure of the rooms of the ex-Benedictine monastery and an early Middle Age architrave on which are rough engravings of doubtful meaning.

The elegant bell tower is a recent construction (1925); it harmonizes well, however, with the Romanesque style of the church.

Curiosity: Looking carefully at the facade[FL2]  an inscription of Lucius Julius Marcianus and his wife Publicia is visible, which was clearly reused in Roman time. On the left, a fragment of a Doric frieze with rosettes and bucrania metopes. Many medieval buildings in the area were built using materials from the pre-existing Roman constructions.



This name has been given to a vast system of catacombs, near Ponte Fonnaia, dating back to a period between III to V century a.C. It is the only example existing in Umbria of an underground Christian cemetery of vast proportions. The only Christian catacombs in Umbria are hidden among wheat fields and houses, probably built by the Christian community of the vicus, which developed very early (the hagiographic legend of San Brizio indicates the I-II century), and that was certainly very large (more than 300 burials were identified in the catacombs). Since 1948 the name of the catacombs is linked to the memory of San Faustino: in that year his bones were found in the abbey of the same name, not far from this area. The catacombs were partly filled in after the abandonment of this stretch of the Via Flaminia, and remained unknown until the '600. We know from a letter from the nobleman Giuseppe Mattei from Todi, dated 1691, that the place is named Grotta Traiana and its description is quite suggestive: "you enter into the jaws of a large travertine rock, I you'd rather bend over and take a light with you, because you'll go into the darkness. Inside, after the descent, there are three underground tunnels all carved with a chisel"... The catacomb is not the size of the more well-known Christian catacombs of Rome, but still has an articulated structure, composed of a main ebbing corridor about 25 meters long and 4 meters high. In ancient times it was accessed from a steep staircase carved into the rock, now worn out and hidden beneath the modern iron staircase. Four lateral tunnels of different lengths branch off symmetrically from the central corridor. You may also notice small niches for the burial of children. Many burials are closed by slabs of marble or large tiles of clay and many tombs, called formae, are also dug in the ground. There are numerous graffiti with the symbol of the cross, palm or fish, related to the figure of Christ. Particularly interesting is a bull-shaped sarcophagus that led to the theory of a place dedicated to the cult of Mithras, then adapted to the Christian cemetery. Few archaeological finds: noteworthy the absence of inscriptions, due to the illiteracy of the population of the countryside. A small basilica next to the catacomb oriented to the east, rectangular and with a semicircular apse was discovered in 1997, thanks to the excavation allowed by the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, and conducted by the Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Umbria. The building is probably connected to the nearby catacombs and occupied by 19 different types of tombs carved into the rock, the one located near the apse of a monumental kind, with arcosolium masonry. The artifacts found, bill gross oil lamps, pottery fragments and coins, are of the same period as those found in the catacombs, proof that the cemetery and the underground basilica above are contemporary. The presence of such a complex demonstrates the early spread of Christian worship in the area of Martana and it also emphasizes the concentration of population in the whole area, albeit of modest social level. The catacomb was obviously forgotten when this stretch of the old street lost its importance, and was gradually buried by the disastrous floods of Naja. Only in 1600 there was news of Trajan cave, named after the local family Traia, or because it was used by Trajan as an underground military passage; later on silence fell again until 1900 when it was mentioned at the Second Congress of the catacombs of Christian Archaeology.


Ponte Fonnaia

Near the Massa Martana train station, in a place remained unchanged and easily accessible on foot, is a completely intact Roman bridge built with perfectly squared massive blocks of travertine in a single arch. It granted passage on the ancient Via Flaminia over the Fonnaia river. The Fonnaia bridge hasn't changed since the restoration of the Augustan period (27 AD), is 15 m long, 8 m high, with a single circular arch of 3.5, has a lower slanting surface so that the road above can maintain its geometric axis. On the inner surface of the arch the blocks are disposed in even rows, and marked by letters and numbers that indicate the quarry.

Brown Coal

The lignite, classified as Brown Coal in international trade, is a "very young" coal. Indeed, it is composed by organic material of plant origin, in course of fossilization in anaerobic environment, that is devoid of oxygen. The lignite present in Umbria was formed in the Middle Plio-Pleistocene; originated by the growth of lake plants on the remains of the preexisting ones. At that time, that was 5 to 1.7 million years ago, the Tiber was not the river we know nowadays and the waters of its basin gathered in the "Tiber Lake". In the Quaternary, about 1.7 million years ago, the lake formed the largest stretch of water in central Italy; in the basin left there are the major lignite mines in Umbria. The deposits of this lake are formed by pebbles and sand at the top and clays at the bottom; between those, at different levels, brown coal benches are enclosed, partly woody, ie composed by trunks of plants, and partly torbacea schistose , that is essentially formed by the leaves of the same plants.



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