Orvieto’s magnificent cathedral (duomo) can be seen from miles around, its soaring facade and spires towering high above the rooftops of the clifftop town. Once you get closer, you can take in its intricate external mosaics and stonework, rose window, bronze doors, and sumptuous Signorelli frescoes inside.
Orvieto Cathedral (Duomo di Orvieto) is considered one of the most beautiful churches in Italy, begun in the early 1200s based on a design by Arnolfo di Cambio, who also designed Florence’s duomo. The original plan was Romanesque, but was transformed into the more fashionable Italian Gothic over the centuries; the facade designed by Sienese sculptor and architect Lorenzo Maitani is one of the great architectural masterpieces of its time, covered with splendid mosaics and bas-reliefs and crowned by Orcagna’s 14th-century rose window. Inside, the main nave has the same stark stripes of white travertine and gray basalt stone as the external walls, but the apse is richly frescoed, as are the Chapel of the Corporal and the Chapel of the Madonna of San Brizio, the latter decorated by Signorelli’s masterful Apocalypse and the Last Judgment fresco cycle.
Orvieto is just over an hour outside Rome, and a popular day trip along with nearby Cività di Bagnoregio and Assisi. Join a walking tour of Orvieto that includes an in-depth visit of the Cathedral, or zip around the medieval center on an electric bike. The entrance to Orvieto’s popular underground tour is just across the square from the duomo, so you can easily pair a visit to the town’s most famous above-ground attraction with a tour of its warren of underground tunnels and caves.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Modest attire is required to enter the church, so be sure to cover your shoulders and knees.
- Walking tours of the duomo and city of Orvieto cover quite a bit of ground; comfortable shoes are recommended.
- The cathedral is accessible via a secondary entrance to the left of the main staircase; the internal chapels are all accessible.
- Flash photography isn’t allowed inside the church.
How to Get There
The Orvieto Duomo is on Piazza Duomo in Orvieto’s pedestrian-only historic center and can only be reached on foot. You can reach Orvieto from Rome by car or train in just over an hour.
When to Get There
Orvieto’s two main celebrations—Festa della Palombella on Pentecost and Corpus Domini—center around celebrations, processions, and ceremonial games in the square just outside the duomo and are a particularly festive time to visit.
The Corporal of Bolsena
Orvieto’s impressive cathedral was built to house the Corporal of Bolsena. A corporal is a small square of cloth that holds the communion host and wine chalice during Mass, and in 1263 a host is said to have miraculously dripped blood onto the corporal below in the nearby town of Bolsena. The stained cloth, known as the Corporal of Bolsena, is now displayed in the duomo’s Chapel of the Corporal, and has been attracting pilgrims for almost 800 years.