“Now everything is silent”: The Little Temple
In 1876 an Italian poet, Giosue Carducci, wrote a famous poem called Alle fonti del Clitunno, “At the Springs of Clitunno” (River). It dealt precisely with this site, that is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Some lines from another poem are reported on Carducci's monument in Perugia, in the city park (Giardini) named after him, where the Rocca Paolina had existed. Located in the territory of Campello, near Spoleto, the Springs of Clitunno River will bewitch your soul with the delights of its uncontaminated, silent Nature. Underground springs flow into a small lake with still, crystal clear waters, where swans, ducks, fish, frogs live. The surrounding vegetation is luxuriant, so that all kinds of trees mirror themselves in the transparent water of the lake, which thus acquires different nuances of green.
Such a beautiful place could not but be linked with the Divine, more precisely putting it under the protection of Jupiter Clitumnus, worshiped by the Romans. Here, every Spring a festival called Clitumnali took place in order to honor the god who inhabited this natural park. Dedicated to him, not far from the springs, a little temple was build along the river banks.
During the Imperial Era, the building was demolished; it would be rebuilt by the Lombards/Langobards the way it currently looks, but now dedicated to the Holy Savior, Jesus Christ.
Dating the Little Temple
Chronology is still much debated, though. According to some scholars, the Lombard Little Temple would date back to the fourth or fifth century AD; others postdate it to the seventh or eighth century, therefore just little after the Basilica of the Holy Savior. The reference to that church is not random, as many parallels can be made: both buildings draw on Antiquity, reuse pagan architectural elements, have the same kind of decorations, and are dedicated to the Holy Savior – and in fact, both are listed among the most important Lombard monuments in Italy.
Lombards, a so-called “barbaric” population, had settled in most of Italy. They are often envisaged as marauders and ravagers, but precisely these two buildings in Umbria – the Basilica and the Little Temple – witness that they were influenced by Roman culture, to the extent that the Clitunno construction recalls a classical temple. The temple “soars” above the ground on a high pedestal: there, where the structure still nowadays rests, the very shrine of Jupiter had probably existed. After stepping beyond the entrance, marked by four ancient pillars, you will see a small niche decorated with frescoes. Unfortunately, only fragments have remained of these wall paintings, that are considered to be among the oldest in Umbria, dating back to the eighth century AD.
Both the Basilica of the Holy Savior and the Little Temple on Clitunno have been declared UNESCO Heritage along a cultural route called Longobardi in Italia: i luoghi del potere, “The Lombards in Italy: The Seats of Power.”
Tempietto: Via del Tempio, 1 Campello sul Clitunno PG
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