For about a mile before we entred Narni we rode upon the brink of a horrid precipice by the river Nera's side.
John Ray - Observations made in a journey through part of (..) Italy, and France - 1673
Few ravines are more full of beauty than the deep narrow gorge below Narni, broken here and there by masses of grey rock, elsewhere clothed with the richest green of ilex, cork, phillyrea, mastick, and flowering heath.
Augustus J. C. Hare - Days near Rome - 1875
In 1866 the railway line was built on the Nera right bank after dams controlled its course; Via Flaminia, the historical road which linked Rome with Rimini across Umbria and Marches, followed a route through the woods on the hills south of the Nera.
Narni is situated on the side of a mountain, near the river Nera and makes a very agreeable appearance to those that approach it from Terni, though it does not look so well on the other side.
Thomas Nugent - The Grand Tour - 1749
We were particularly struck with its romantic appearance. Its walls and towers spread along the uneven summit, sometimes concealed in groves of cypress, ilex, and laurel, and sometimes emerging from the shade, and rising above their waving tops; delightful views of the vales, towns, rivers, and mountains, opening here and there unexpectedly on the eye; a certain loneliness and silence, even in the streets.
John Chetwode Eustace - A Classical Tour through Italy in 1802
One day in midwinter, some years since, during a journey from Rome to Florence I waited for the train at Narni. There was time to stroll far enough from the station to have a look at the famous old bridge of Augustus. While I stood admiring the measure of impression was made to over flow by the gratuitous grace of a white-cowled monk who came trudging up the road that wound to the gate of the town. Narni stood, in its own presented felicity, on a hill a good space away, boxed in behind its perfect grey wall, and the monk, to oblige me, crept slowly along and disappeared within the aperture. Every thing was distinct in the clear air, and the view exactly as like the bit of background by an Umbrian master as it ideally should have been. The light cast such a spell on the broken bridge, the little walled town and the trudging friar, that I turned away with the impatient vow and the fond vision of how I would take the journey again and pause to my heart's content at Narni.
Henry James - A Chain of Italian Cities - 1874
Narni anciently called
Nequinum and afterwards Narnia from the river Nar
which runs beneath that steep rocky mountain upon
the ridge whereof this City stands, was formerly a
Roman colony and a place of some account, but is
now very mean, poor, and inconsiderable. Ray
We proceeded through this dell along the Nar, tumbling and murmuring over its rocky channel, and then, with some difficulty, worked our way through the olives and evergreens that line the steep, up to the town. Eustace
View from La Rocca (the castle) showing the Roman structure of Narni
Narni was anciently called Nequinum (wicked Town) because of the Inhabitants, who being pressed with hunger in a Siege, resolved to kill one another, rather than fall alive into the hands of their Enemies. They began with their Children, Sisters, Mothers, Wives, and at last fell upon one another leaving the Enemies nothing to triumph over but bare Walls and Ashes.
Richard Lassels - The Voyage of Italy - 1670
Narni is an ancient Umbrian city, beautifully situated on a lofty hill commanding the valley of the Nar, and an immense extent of fertile and varied country as far as the Apennines. Its old convents, towers and castle give it an air of picturesque beauty from many parts of the neighbouring country, but internally it is badly built, and its streets are narrow and dirty. It is the Narnia of the Romans, the birthplace of the emperor Nerva.
John Murray - Handbook for travellers in central Italy - 1843
The Romans conquered the town in 299 BC and renamed it Narnia. Today's Narni stands some ten feet above the level of the Roman town, but its main street (Via Mazzini/Via Garibaldi with three medieval towers in a row) was the cardo maximus (main north-south street) of Narnia.
Straight and steep streets going up to the main one which reflect the layout of the Roman town
The east-west streets, because of the narrowness of the ridge upon which Narni stands, are steep and straight, in line with the traditional layout of a Roman town, rather than winding as at Trevi, another medieval Umbrian town.
A little out of the Town are seen high Arches, belonging anciently to an Aqueduct. Lassels
From the Nar our next town on the road receives the name of Narni. I saw here abouts nothing remarkable except Augustus' bridge, that stands half a mile from the town, and is one of the stateliest ruins in Italy. It has no cement, and looks as firm as one entire stone. There is an arch of it unbroken, the broadest that I have ever seen, though, by reason of its great height, it does not appear so. The middle one was still much broader.
Joseph Addison - Remarks on several parts of Italy - 1705
A little before you come into the town, you may turn aside to see the ruins of a magnificent bridge, said to be built by Augustus of large square pieces of marble without any cement. Out of four arches (..) there remains but one intire. Nugent
best point for commanding a fine view
of the ruins is the modern bridge, which
crosses the river a short distance above
them. It presents many picturesque
combinations for the sketch-book, particularly where the convent of San Casciano, which forms so beautiful an object in the distance, is seen through
the arch on the left bank. Murray
After the great ravine through which the waters of the Nera rush down from the mountains to join the Tiber, Narni, with its mighty fortress and its many church towers, rose up before us. It is one of the oldest cities in Umbria; its position is very fine just where the Nera, hastening away from its dark bed, enters a wide and ground valley through which it takes its course. This bursts on our view suddenly to the right, with mountains on each side of it, the bold arches of the ancient Roman bridge spanning the torrent to the left. (..) It has been one of the most stupendous works of its period, though but one of its arches is now left. This fragment, the rushing river, a convent hard by, with the massive buildings in the town and the unequalled view which stretches out below it, form an enchanting picture, view it from what point you may.
Ferdinand Gregorovius - An excursion through Sabina and Umbria in 1861 - Transl. by Dorothea Roberts
A triumphal arch was erected at Rimini in 27 BC to celebrate the improvements made by Emperor Augustus to Via Flaminia and the bridge of Narni is thought to be one of them.
Roman memories: (left/centre) Roman arch; (right) Roman walls
Not many remains survive of its Cyclopean walls. Gregorovius
The Romans modified the original landscape in order to obtain a sort of long and narrow terrace at the top of the hill. Parts of the arches and walls of Narnia can still be seen at some points of today's Narni.
"The Chronicles of Narnia" is a series of seven fantasy novels by British author C. S. Lewis which were published in 1950-1956. Lewis saw the name Narnia in a map of ancient Italy. He liked the sound of it and he used it for his fictional realm. One of the main characters of the first novel is Aslan, a talking lion and the King of Narnia. This explains why a travertine lion which was found in the 1930s in the environs of Narni was placed in the first hall of the new Museum of Narni which was inaugurated in 2007. A similar lion was found in the environs of Terni.
The large majority of the Roman exhibits of the museum are related to tombs. An inscription from a tomb along Via Flaminia is of particular interest: Ita candidatus quod petit fiat tuus. Et ita perennes, scriptor, opus hoc praeteri! Hoc si impetro a te, felix vivas, bene vale. (So may your candidate become whatever he seeks, and so, writer, pass by this eternal monument! If I gain this from you, may you live happily, farewell!). The purpose of the inscription was to prevent vandalism by writing on the monument political advertisements (see an example at Pompeii and another inscription asking passers-by not to spoil a tomb).
The collections include exhibits from the Late Bronze Age, Roman household objects and a fragment of an inscription celebrating Emperor Nerva.
(above) Cathedral: 558 funerary inscription celebrating Saint Cassius, Bishop of Narni and his wife Fausta who died at the age of 21; (below) S. Domenico: floor mosaic of a VIth century church beneath the current one
Narni, besides its splendid castle, possesses many monasteries and churches well worth seeing. The cathedral is dedicated to St. Juvenal, the first Bishop of Narni. Gregorovius
According to tradition Juvenal was Bishop of Narni in 364-371. The town was not sacked by the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths on their way to Rome because of its strong position, but it greatly suffered during the Greek-Gothic War when it was taken by the Byzantines, retaken by the Ostrogoths and eventually again by the Byzantines. Cassius was Bishop in 536-558, thus he went through this whole turbulent period and did his best to protect his flock.
"Impensole" most likely means hanging/built on a slope, because it stands on a previous VIIIth century church and on two Roman cisterns. An inscription on the main door indicates that its reconstruction was completed in 1175. At that time Narni was already a libero Comune, i.e. it had gained a sort of independence from the Pope and the Emperor. The church belonged to the Benedictine Abbey of Farfa.
S. Maria Impensole: (left) left door with two imperial eagles overlooking the Lamb of the Apocalypse; (centre) right door; (right) details of the central and left doors
The doors are decorated with friezes depicting acanthus scrolls which are supported by human beings; there are also some animals, e.g. eagles and dogs, similar to what can be seen in many ancient "inhabited scrolls" of floor mosaics and marble decorations. You may wish to see similar Romanesque reliefs at S. Pietro outside the walls of Tuscania.
S. Maria Impensole: (left) interior; (right) two peculiar capitals
The term "Romanesque," meaning in the manner of the Romans, was first coined in the early XIXth century. In Italy it often meant "with Roman materials" because of the large availability of ancient columns, capitals, reliefs, etc. Inside S. Maria Impensole however there is at least one capital which is entirely not in the manner of the Romans, to the point that it could be called in the manner of the Barbarians. It probably decorated the earlier church and perhaps it was meant to portray Daniel in the lions' den.
S. Domenico: detail of the reliefs decorating the entrance
The decorative patterns of the portals of S. Maria Impensole are similar to those at S. Domenico, which was built at approximately the same period and it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary (S. Maria Maggiore) before being assigned to the Dominicans. The reliefs in tondi portray the twelve Apostles.
S. Domenico: (above) fašade: twelve heads (months?) supporting a cornice; (below-left) Cosmati floor mosaic; (below-centre) fresco portraying St. George; (below-right) Museum of Narni: detached fresco from S. Domenico portraying the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and St. Dominic
The church was deconsecrated in 1867 and today it is used as a conference hall. It retains some of its works of art, including a fine Renaissance funerary monument.
The church was built in the XIIIth century, but the fašade and the portal are dated XIVth century. The interior is characterized by frescoes which were painted on the columns as an act of devotion by wealthy citizens. Some frescoes of its side chapels are shown in page two.
Move to page two.