Orvieto between history and legend
The small town of Orvieto is known to fans of arts for the majestic cathedral that rises in the central Duomo Place. Few people, however, know the fascinating Pozzo di San Patrizio, a unique example of perfect architectural harmony in the world. It was built in 1527 by Antonio da Sangallo at the request of Pope Clement VII, the well was designed to guarantee water in the town any time of the year, in case of calamity or for an extended state of siege.
Construction work for the well
Pope Clement VII commissioned the well during his stay in Orvieto: he was refugee in the city during the sack of Rome and he submitted the project to a genial architect that realized a real hydraulic masterpiece.
The Sangallo conceived the outside with a wide and low cylindrical shape, setting to the sides of the cylinder, diametrically opposite, two openings: an entrance and an exit. To make it happen it was dug first in the tuff and then in the clay; when the aquifer was reached, the brick cylinder it was rebuilt.
The works ended in 1537, under the papacy of Paolo Farnese III
The section of the well
With circular section, the well is 62 meters deep and 13 meters wide. Around the reed of the well two spiral staircases designed by Sangallo run in such a way as to run overlapping each other without ever crossing each other.
In fact, the clever helical system of stairs it allowed the burden animals - that it was used for transporting water by the fund of the hollow of the well - not hamper the walk of whom went up again in surface.
248 are the steps for each climb: as you descend, the light that enters through the 72 windows along the length of the well, becomes light. The twilight leaves a glimpse of a small bridge that connects the two stairways: on the bottom emerges the water, fueled by the source of San Zeno.
The legend of the well of San Patrizio
Close to the Etruscan temple of the Belvedere and the Rocca, called "Albornoz Fortress", the well was designed for a combined use with the fortified fortress: just for this to the epoch of his construction he was called the "Well of the Fortress."
It was only during the nineteenth century that it assumed the current name of Pozzo di San Patrizio (well of San Patrizio), symbolizing the spiritual path of the human soul. The legend of the Irish Saint narrated that this was the guardian of a bottomless cave – the well precisely – from which the faithful could convince themselves of the atrocity of Hell's pains.
Only those who managed to reach the bottom of it, overcoming an endless series of trials, would have obtained the remission of sins and the access to heaven.
It was so that the well, having lost by now his primary function, it became place of real attraction for all the visitors that passed trough Orvieto.
How to reach the well of San Patrizio
The entrance to the well of San Patrizio is located in one of the most scenic areas of the city, next to the exit of the upper station of the funicular. The latter was designed to move as quickly as possible between the lower part of the city and the cliff, and is now the fastest way to get down to the train station and the adjacent tourist car park-where there is also a large trailer area.