Here are four itineraries: two focus on the City of Mosaics and a few neighbouring towns; the other two are dedicated to the historic centre of Spilimbergo.
The artist’s workshop: Friulian art between the 15th and 16th century*
Spilimbergo’s territory has a prestigious yet often little-known artistic heritage. The 15th and 16th centuries were periods of great splendour for Spilimbergo and its neighbouring towns. The main noble families would do everything they could to get hold of the works of art of the best artists of the time to ensure their social and political supremacy. It was during that period that the genius of Giovanni Antonio de’ Sacchis, aka “il Pordenone”, emerged. After starting his career here, he took his art across the main cities of Veneto, Lombardy, and Emilia. His works paved the way to a new taste that soon spread across the neighbouring towns. An invitation to get off the beaten track, to rediscover the great art of the Renaissance era.
The tour starts in Spilimbergo and continues in nearby towns that hide unexpected treasures. The area between the Cosa stream and the Tagliamento river was the setting where the schools of Pordenone; his master, G. Francesco da Tolmezzo; and his favourite student, Pomponio Amalteo, rose and shined, as well as sculptors such as Pilacorte and Donato Casella; the famous miniaturist Giovanni de Cramariis; and Marco Cozzi, Italy’s greatest wood carver of the 15th century.
Spilimbergo: The Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore (with works by Vitale da Bologna, Pilacorte, Pordenone, G. Antonio de Cramariis, Giovanni Martini, Girolamo Stefanelli, Joseph Heintz the Younger, and a monumental organ), the Painted Palace at the Castle, Palazzo Monaco, the Church of Saint John of the Flagellants, the Fiars’ Church (with the wooden choir stalls carved by Marco Cozzi, a masterpiece of woodworking art).
Provesano: The Church of Saint Leonardo (with the cycle of frescoes by G. Francesco da Tolmezzo: The Last Supper, The Passion and Resurrection of Jesus).
Valeriano: The Churches of Saint Mary of the Flagellants and Saint Stephen (frescoes by Il Pordenone, including the famous Nativity).
Baseglia: the Church of the Saint Cross (cycle of frescoes by Pomponio Amalteo: The Passion of Jesus and History of the real Cross).
Alternatively, after Spilimbergo,
Barbeano: Saint Anthony’s oratory (frescoes by G. Francesco da Tolmezzo).
Tauriano: Church of Saint Nicholas (frescoes by Giampietro da Spilimbergo).
Vacile: Church of Saint Lawrence (youth frescoes by Il Pordenone)
Travesio: Church of Saint Peter (frescoes by Il Pordenone).
Lestans: Church of Our Lady of the Assumption (cycle of frescoes by Pomponio Amalteo: Stories from the Old and New Testament).
The eagle and the lion: following the trail of the Middle Ages*
On the 6th June 1350, in the Richinvelda plain, Bertram of St Genesius, the Patriarch of Aquilea, fell in battle against the troops of Spilimbergo. This was the acme of a long and bloody fight for the control over Friuli.
We’ll travel through the time between the crisis of the Patria del Friuli (Patriarchate of Aquileia) and the Serenissima Republic of Venice, following the footprints of the Counts of Spilimbergo, one of the most powerful families of the time. It was not just a military undertaking but also a race to splendid artistic treasures.
The tour starts from Spilimbergo, a key centre in the defence system of the Holy Roman Empire, opposed to the League of Communes. It later became a large ecclesiastical fiefdom that controlled the central part of the region. Then, the tour continues through the manors that controlled the access to the northern valleys, and ends where Friuli’s great tragedy took place.
Spilimbergo, political and religious power: The Castle (originally dating back to the 11th-12th century, but destroyed and later reconstructed in the 16th century), the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore (with works by Vitale da Bologna, Pilacorte, Pordenone, G. Antonio de Cramariis, Giovanni Martini, Girolamo Stefanelli, Joseph Heintz the Younger).
Spilimbergo, everyday life during the Middle Ages: the Macia loggia, the Customs House loggia, towers and city walls.
Spilimbergo, the fighting families: Palazzo Ercole, Palazzo Monaco.
Solimbergo: the ruins of Sonenberg Castle.
Castelnovo del Friuli: the ruins of Neuhaus Castle.
San Giorgio della Richinvelda: a memorial stone for Bertram of St Genesius erected in the place where he was killed, the Church of Saint Nicholas.
Titbit: after the killing of the Patriarch, the people of Spilimbergo were nicknamed “Bertramins” by the other Friulians. The nickname is still used today to identify the old residents.
Spilimbergo’s historical and artistic heritage makes it one of Friuli’s most beautiful places. What can you see while taking a walk in the oldest part of town?
Every corner speaks of art and history, but also of unusual shops hidden under the porticoes, bustling streets, and welcoming places in a town where progress has not allowed traditions to be forgotten, and where even the Saturday market becomes a celebration. Not to mention the taverns, where you can enjoy the atmosphere of times gone by.
The itinerary starts at the castle of the Spengenberg counts, the original core of the town (11th-12th century) and slowly follows its development. A walk through cobbled streets, porticoes and monumental buildings provides the ideal opportunity to recreate the town’s life in ancient times and enjoy today’s.
Borgo Vecchio: The Castle, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore (with works by Vitale da Bologna, Pilacorte, Pordenone, G. Antonio de Cramariis, Giovanni Martini, Girolamo Stefanelli, Joseph Heintz the Younger, and a monumental organ), the Macia loggia, the Customs House loggia, the Eastern Tower, and the first row of city walls.
Borgo Valbruna: Palazzo Spilimbergo di Sopra, commoners’ dwellings.
Borgo Orientale: Palazzo Ercole, the Captain’s House, Palazzo Monaco, remains of Palazzo Cisternini (destroyed by the Russians during the Napoleonic wars).
Broiluccio: commoners’ dwellings in Spilimbergo’s ancient “broili”.
Borgo Nuovo: Friars’ Church (wooden choir stalls by Marco Cozzi), Church of Saint John of the Flagellants (Germanic style frescoes and Tiepolo style works), the Western Tower.
Outside the walls: Church of Saint Rocco, Viale Barbacane (ancient row of defensive walls, later paved and transformed into a cattle market. Today, it’s a fascinating tree-lined avenue).
Friuli School of Mosaic Art: a unique school where mosaic artists are trained. These artists have created the beautiful mosaics that decorate churches and mosques, royal palaces and public buildings, sports centres, airports and squares around the world. This is where classes take place and works are exhibited
Corte Europa: a modern example of mosaic architecture.
Titbit: the macia – the ancient symbol of the town – was a unit of length for fabrics used during the Renaissance (one macia was about 80 cm). The symbol of the menorah can be noticed on top of the door, bearing witness to the ancient presence of a Jewish community.
Borgo Valbruna and the figures who gave their names to the town’s streets
We’re in Borgo Valbruna, which the locals call the ‘valley of love’. It’s the place where couples can enjoy a romantic moment. Before being urbanised and included in the second row of city walls at the end of the 14th century, it was a shaded forest, perfect for the purpose.
The eastern part of the hamlet is occupied by Palazzo di Sopra, today’s town hall. In 1530, the building housed the Bernardino Partenio Academy. The Academy was backed by Count Adriano of Spilimbergo, the father of Irene, the painter. It was attended by students even from outside Friuli, who could learn the word of the Lord from the original texts. Prestigious professors taught in Valbruna, and students learned Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. The winds of the Protestant Reformation were blowing.
From the wall that delimits the court, you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Tagliamento, San Daniele, the hills of Pieve d’Asio, and the mountains that crown Friuli. The roads of Borgo Valbruna are named after Friulian painters or painters who were involved with the region’s history.
Starting from the eastern part, we have the little square dedicated to Giambattista Tiepolo. He was born in Venice in 1696 and died in Madrid in 1770. In 1719, he married Maria Cecilia Guardi, sister of the painters Giovanni Antonio and Francesco Guardi, with whom he had ten children, including Giandomenico. He was a much appreciated artist, and created most of his works in his hometown (Sant’Aponal, Palazzo Sandi, Palazzo Labia, Saint Zeno, and many private and public buildings). He worked in Bergamo, Milan, Vicenza, and Udine. Here, he decorated the Palazzo and the Cathedral for Dionisio Dolfin, Patriarch of Aquileia.
Then, there’s Via Giovanni Antonio Pordenone. He was born in Pordenone (hence the name) in 1483-4 and died in Ferrara in 1539. His father, Angelo de’ Sacchis, was originally from Corticelle near Brescia. Pordenone was an extremely active, skilled and fast painter, exactly the features required from a fresco artist. He lived in Spilimbergo between the second and the third decade of the 16th century. As all great artists, he was a genius and a bit eccentric. He had a dozen children – including Graziosa, who later married his student Pomponio Amalteo – from three wives. In the surrounding areas, he created works in Travesio, Vacile, Gaio, and Valeriano. He decorated the front covers of the organ in the Cathedral of Spilimbergo in 1524-5. He also painted the beautiful frescoes in the Cathedral of Cremona. He was Titian’s greatest rival.
Moving on, we have Via Pomponio Amalteo. He was born in Motta di Livenza in 1505 and died in San Vito al Tagliamento in 1588. Vasari considered him Pordenone’s greatest Friulian student. He had work relations with the greatest figures of the time, such as Cardinal Gerolamo Aleandro and the Patriarch, Marino Grimani. As Pordenone’s son-in-law, he was considered his artistic heir. That’s why he was asked to complete the works started by his famous father-in-law, such as the decorations of the Churches of Lestans and Baseglia. Amalteo often used Pordenone’s cartons too. His workshop was in San Vito. He had seven children from four wives. Two of his daughters – Virginia and Quintilia – married two of his students, Sebastiano Secante and Giuseppe Moretto.
Then, we get to Via Giovanni da Udine. Giovanni de’ Cramariis was born in Udine in 1487. He was also known as Giovanni de’ Ricamatori (from the real surname of his father, Francesco Recamador). He died in Rome in 1564. He was a painter with a fervid imagination and was one of Raphael’s favourite students during the decoration works in the Vatican, especially in the loggias. Giovanni fell so much in love with the grottesche of the Baths of Titus that he exported that model to Friuli and Venice (decorations in Palazzo Grimani). When he returned from Rome to Udine, he worked as a “public works architect”. His stuccoes and cherubs in the Spilimbergo Castle (Palazzo Furlan) date back to 1555. He was in Rome again in 1560 to decorate the second floor of the Vatican Loggias.
And here we are in Via Pellegrino da San Daniele. Martino da Udine, aka Pellegrino, was born in Udine or in San Daniele in 1467. He was the son of Battista Schiavone from Zagreb. He died in Udine in 1547. According to Vasari, Pellegrino trained by watching Giovanni Bellini. He met Antonio da Firenze and frequented the workshop of Domenico Mioni da Tolmezzo. He was the brother-in-law of Giovanni de’ Cramariis, who had married his sister Anna. He worked in Villanova di San Daniele, San Daniele, Gemona, Osoppo, Cividale, and Udine. He met and worked for the Patriarch, Domenico Grimani, who thought highly of him and benefited him in many ways. He decorated the Church of the Confraternity of Saint Anthony the Abbot in San Daniele in 1498. He also worked for the Dukes Ercole and Alfonso at the Court of Ferrara. In 1534, he went on a pilgrimage to Assisi, where he left his mark in the Porziuncola “Hic fuit Pelegr(inus) pitore et sua dona de Udine d(el) Friulle”.
And here we are in Via Irene di Spilimbergo.
Irene was born in Spilimbergo in 1538 to Adriano of Spilimbergo and Giulia Da Ponte, the daughter of a rich merchant, Gian Paolo, from Venice. He died at a very young age in Venice in 1559. She lost her father when she was just a child, and she grew up in the castle’s shadow. Soon, her grandfather took her to Venice, where she could have an appropriate education. Irene had an inclination for humanities, poetry, and music. Her grandfather, Gian Paolo, made sure she had the best teachers. She studied under Titian, which made her a famous artist and painter. Her fame grew even more after she died, when her grandfather asked prominent literary personalities to write about her.
The Spilimbergo School of Mosaic Art is named after her.
After passing by the recently restored mill and through Via Jacopo, we head towards Corso Roma, in the widening between the Li Volsi grocery shop and Via Piave. Here, near the Torre Orientale wine bar, there is a fresco by Gasparo Narvesa depicting the Crucifixion. You can admire it from the pavement facing the entrance.
Gasparo Quecchi, aka Narvesa, was born in Pordenone in 1558. He immediately revealed an extraordinary inclination to drawing and painting. In 1585, he was in Spilimbergo, where he married Augusta Calcaterra, the daughter of Lucio Barbiero/Ciroico, a descendant of the Tuscan exiles of the 14th century. In addition to a fresco and gilding artist, he was also an engraver and miniaturist. When necessary, he also repaired church furnishings and organ bellows. He worked in Vivaro, Arzene, Domanins, and Cordenons. He was a close friend of the poet Gian Domenico Cancianini. He died in Spilimbergo in 1639, aged 81. He is buried in the right nave of the Cathedral in the family tomb of his in-laws, the No. 17 on the floor.
Moving to the west, midway down Corso Roma, between Vicolo Chiuso (where Bachero is) and Via Marco Volpe, there’s Via Daniele Cernazai.
He was born in 1807 in Udine, where he died in 1858. The Cernazai family, an ancient and extremely rich noble family with Hungarian roots, lived in Udine and had a lot of property in Travesio. Daniele was domiciled there to take care of his interests. His ideas were frowned upon by the Austrians, as they were inspired by freemasonry and the Italian Unification. When he died, he left part of his heritage worth half a million Italian lira to Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour. The Piedmontese government accepted it as charity and named it the Cernazai Legacy by royal decree. Among other things, that sum was used to build the National Institute for the Daughters of the Italian Military in Turin in 1868. The building still exists and now houses two vocational schools.
Almost in front of it, between Via Stella and Via Simoni, next to the ancient Santorini Pharmacy (1650), there’s Via Giovanni Antonio Santorini.
He was born in Spilimbergo in 1754 into the Santorini family, a rich Venetian family of doctors, architects, and notary public, who got its name from the Greek island. After his studies in Padua, Giovanni Antonio designed the Social Theatre in Piazza Duomo. He was particularly inclined towards the mechanical arts. In 1809, during the Napoleonic Regency, he invented a revolutionary silk reeling machine, which was particularly appreciated by the French Government, who introduced it successfully in Lyon, France’s capital of the silk industry, with great advantages for the industrialists and the State. This invention earned Santorini Napoleon’s solemn commendation. Moreover, as a sign of gratitude, Napoleon donated almost the entire former Balzaro property to him and had Santorini’s studies published by the Royal Printing Press of Milan. The silk spinning mill (now abandoned) in the street named after him bears witness to Santorini’s work and ingenuity. The building features a long series of tall windows from which light entered, allowing the workers to unravel the cocoons better. Santorini died of typhus in 1817.
Original texts for this itinerary by Gianni Colledani
The “Spilimbergo to be heard” project
A project to promote tourism and provide visitors with an opportunity to enjoy an exciting story straight from their smartphones!
Four mp3 audio guides, which you can download or use here to discover the town narrated in a compelling way, with music, sounds, and atmospheres. The route lasts about one hour and has 4 short itineraries:
- Il Castello del Falco (the Castle)
- I segreti del Duomo (the Secrets of the Cathedral)
- Il Tagliamento racconta (the Tales of the Tagliamento)
- Mercanti e mecenati (Merchants and Patrons)
* The itineraries marked with an asterisk are part of the guided tour packages aimed at schools, youth groups and senior groups, consortiums, cultural associations and veteran groups, church groups and any other organised groups. The itineraries are indicative; different solutions may be agreed on, on request. To ensure the tourist trails are organised as well as possible, please contact the Arcometa admin office and the Tourist Information Office in Spilimbergo at least three weeks before the agreed tour date. The cost of the guided tours, including administrative costs, are tied to changes in the tariffs of the authorised tourist guide associations. For more information, please contact the Tourist Information Office in Spilimbergo on +39 0427 2274 or email email@example.com