The Etruscan temple of Belvedere

History and culture

The Etruscan temple of Belvedere

L'architettura sacra ai tempi degli etruschi

The Etruscan temple of Belvedere

Sito visitabile dall’esterno

The best preserved monument of Etruscan Orvieto and has always been considered one of the "canonical" examples of sacred architecture of the ancient Etruscans.

The Etruscan temple of Belvedere is located at the northern end of the city, near the Well of San Patrizio, and was probably dedicated to Tinia, the equivalent of Zeus for the ancient Greeks. Today it is part of the Archaeological and Environmental Park of Orvieto (PAAO), a project aimed at enhancing the archaeological heritage in relation to the numerous natural resources. It is also possible to visit the numerous architectural terracottas of exceptional quality that decorated it, exhibited both at the Claudio Faina Museum and at the National Archaeological Museum of Orvieto.

Of the temple, discovered in 1828 following the works for the construction of the Via Cassia Nuova, the walls and foundation cuts are preserved which give back a plan of the building articulated in a pronaos (the front part) with four columns on the front, behind which an environment with three cells side by side opens up, with the central one wider than the side ones.

The temple, facing south-east, stands on a high rectangular podium 21.90 m long, while the width of the front (16.30m) and that of the back (16.90m) presents an asymmetry of unclear motivation. Access was via a ramp, which was placed in a central position with respect to the area in front of the entrance, framed by a quadrangular fence. It is likely that the environment dug into the tuff behind the temple and covered in cocciopesto with quays along the three walls, and the other remains of structures and a cistern that emerged from more recent investigations, are linked to the cult that was practiced in the sacred area . Overall, the physiognomy of the temple falls within the typical Templar buildings defined as “Etruscan-Italic”, whose appearance is theorized by Vitruvius (1st century BC) in his fundamental text De Architettura, which also included a quantity of painted terracotta which covered beams and structures; pediments that housed even complex figurative scenes, with polychrome terracotta statues in the round of great effect.

During the excavations, a conspicuous number of architectural terracottas was recovered referable to at least two building phases: few fragments and some matrices are pertinent to the oldest (second half of the 6th – beginning of the 5th century BC); from the second phase (end of the 5th century BC), well documented, numerous fragments relating to the high reliefs of the rear pediment have also survived, depicting a scene articulated on various characters, with notable stylistic affinities with the Magna Graecia environment, in particular with the works of Phidias . Only a few fragments of terracotta belong to a later phase, relating to interventions to replace the elements that have deteriorated over time.