Key to Umbria: Terni

Sant' Alò (11th century)

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Architectural fragments incorporated into the facade of this church suggest that the first church on the site was built in ca. 800.  Surviving elements of Romanesque architecture point to its rebuilding in the 12th century (perhaps after Archbishop Christian of Mainz  sacked the city in 1174).

A church here that was dedicated as San Pietro de Riconis (or Bitonis) provided a base for a community of Augustinians who arrived at Terni in 1252, before they moved to SS Siro e Bartolomeo (in 1254) and then to San Pietro (in 1287).   The The Knights Hospitaller (of Jerusalem, Malta and then Rhodes) took over the complex towards the end of the 13th century.  The dedication changed to Sant’ Alò changed at some point between 1466 (the last documented reference to San Pietro de Riconis) and 1487 (the first documented reference to Sant' Alò).  The new dedication refers to St Aloysius, the patron saint of goldsmiths and blacksmiths.  

[Subsequent history]

In “Terni” (1910), Luigi Lanzi complained that, under the auspices of the knights, it functioned as a coal cellar.  He embedded a number of Roman archeological fragments (which he had discovered in the orchards near the Duomo in 1904) in the walls of the church and the adjacent house (see below). 

After a long period of secular use, the church was acquired by the diocese in 1959  and re-consecrated after its restoration in 1960.  It is now the seat of an Orthodox community from Romania.


The house to the left of the church (at number 18) was built in the 14th century.  The entrance of the church was consequently moved its the right wall at this time. 

A short flight of steps with flanking (probably Roman) lions leads to this entrance, ..... 

and there is a marble relief (15th century) of the Madonna della Misericordia above the portal.

A number of ancient reliefs are embedded in the walls of the apse, which is in the courtyard to the right.

The façade of the house at number 18 incorporates a number of other fragments (8th or 9th century), including ....

  1. part of a garland frieze, with the head of a cow to the right; and

  1. a relief of a peacock eating grapes, to the right of it.

Another pair of lions flank the upper window of the house.


The interior is in the form of a nave and two aisles, with a semi-circular apse preceded by an entrance arch. 

The remains of the original portal can be seen on the wall at the end of the nave.  

A cylindrical Roman altar stands to the left, in the entrance arch of the apse.  It is decorated with reliefs of bulls heads and garlands and has a carved capital resting on it. 

The frescoes on the walls have been recently restored.

Early Frescoes (12th century)


These two damaged frescoes, which are among the oldest to survive in Terni, depict:

  1. the Crucifixion with the Virgin and St John the Evangelist, on the right wall, to the left of the entrance; and

  2. the Visitation, on the pilaster opposite.

Frescoes of the apse (15th century)

Coronation of St Clare (ca. 1490)

This fresco in the lunette of the apse, which is attributed to Bernardino Campilio, depicts God the Father welcoming St Clare into Heaven, as SS Sebastian, John the Baptist, Francis and Lucy witness the scene.  This unusual representation of St Clare suggests that the church belonged to Franciscan nuns at the time that the fresco was painted.

Saints (1493)

The inscription under this fresco of standing saints indicates that "Potentia et Bactista de Carara" commissioned it in 1493.  The presence of SS Roch and Sebastian to the right suggests that it was a votive image connected to an outbreak of plague.

Other Frescoes in the Apse

These include two that are dated:


  1. a deacon saint (1426); and

  2. a female martyr (1482). 

An undated  fresco of the Virgin Annunciate is better preserved, although the balancing figure of the announcing angel has been ruined.

SS Sebastian and Roch (15th century)

This votive fresco is on the pilaster to the right of the apse.

St Bernardino of Siena (1484)

This fresco, which is at the end of the right aisle nearest the apse, is attributed to Bernardino Campilio and dated by inscription.  St Bernardino stands in front of a cloth of honour held by angels, and carries the monogram IHS.  The three mitres to the right represent the three occasions on which St Bernardino declined the offer of episcopal status (at Siena, Urbino and Ferrara).

Female Martyrs (15th century)

These frescoes on the left of the counter-facade depict three female martyrs bearing palms: St Mary Magdalene, St Catherine of Alexandria and another female martyr, whose attribute is a dog on a leash.

Frescoes on the left wall (15th century)

These frescoes on the wall of the left aisle, near the apse, depict:
  1. an angel making peace between two noble men, whose swords stand behind them;

  2. the standing Madonna and Child.

Mystical Marriage (15th century) 

This fresco on the pilaster to the right on the counter-facade depicts the Virgin enthroned with two figures on her lap: the baby Jesus, on the right. offers a ring to St Catherine of Alexandria.

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