Key to Umbria: Orvieto

San Giovannino dei Cavalieri di Malta (12th century)

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                           Number 11-13                                         Number 13                              Number 15-9

Templar Origins

Local sources contain little about the early history of this complex in what is now Via della Loggia dei Mercanti (originally Via della Precettori) and Via della Commenda.  However, Sandro Bassetti (referenced below) reports that it originally belonged to the preceptory of the Knights Templar that was based at Bardano, some 6 km north west of Orvieto, which was established in 1135 and was the largest preceptory in Italy after Rome and Florence. 

The church on this site, which was one of at least four churches in the preceptory, was dedicated as San Matheus Urbeveteris.  The other three churches belonging to the preceptory, which were all in the contado, were:

  1. Santa Maria del Piano (more commonly known as San Marco);

  2. San Pietro (now SS Pietro e Paolo); and

  3. Santa Maria delle Grazie. 

It is possible that the urban church of San Bernardo belonged to it.

The Templars used the complex at numbers 11-19 Via della Loggia dei Mercanti for their financial and trading activities:

  1. the bank was at what is now number 11;

  2. the church was at what is now number 13; and

  3. the residence was at what is now numbers 15-9. 

The associated hospice seems to have been in a building nearby Via della Commenda that was demolished in 1891. It is probable that the building at number 4 here was also part of the complex.

The Templars came under serious pressure from King Philip IV of France and the papacy in Avignon in ca. 1307.  The knights at Orvieto were direct affected by the inquisitorial process mounted in Viterbo in 1309-10.  They probably fled from Orvieto at about the time that their order was suppressed, in 1312. 

Knights of St John of Jerusalem 

The inscription that was inserted in façade of this church in 2002 records that it was belonged to the commenda (equivalent to the Templars’ word preceptory) of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem.   They were the beneficiaries of the fall of the Templars, in Orvieto as elsewhere.  They re-dedicated the church to their patron, St John the Baptist, and it is usually referred to as San Giovannino.

The community was suppressed in 1810 and again, this time definitively, in 1860.


[Fine Gothic facade]


Read more:

S. Bassetti, “I Templari in Orvieto” (2010) Orvieto

Return to Monuments of Orvieto.

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