Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Viterbo: who needs a museum?

At dinner at their apartment we had said to the owners of this apartment, Noelene and Ian McBride, that we had developed some kind of aversion to Viterbo (20km away, the provincial capital) because we knew nothing of it other than traffic snarls.

"That's what happens to everybody," said Ian. "We are going to London in the afternoon, but we'll take you to Viterbo in the morning." What amazing and lovely people they are. After protestations we accepted. In another life, on another planet called Brisbane, Noelene has retired from lecturing in early childhood education, continues with voluntary roles, Ian still has a veterinary practice. I suppose people focused on small children and small animals should be good with people too, but they also have this extraordinary still-learning love of this area.

So here they are in the Viterbo spring sunshine.

It is a city with a huge history, of which we can only offer fragments.

This below, located on the loggia, at least I think it's a loggia, yes, it's not a portico, in the picture above, is the lid of an Etruscan coffin, the lady in question has her hand around a drinking glass which is not there any more. This is from perhaps (I did not look for detail) 2600 years old. We don't hear much about the Etruscans because they lost to the Romans, after providing the first Roman kings, before Rome became a republic, and the victors write history. Viterbo still offers that sense as in imperial Rome (and imperial Sydney for that matter) that really anything worthwhile is something invented here. Anyway, you get from this image below that life had its comforts a long time ago here. Noting also that the Greeks and Romans were actually scandalised by the Etruscan inclusion of women in events like eating which were meant to be men's business.

Here, not far away, at the entrance to that loggia, are a number of plaques.

This one deserves a doctoral thesis alone. I cannot begin to imagine (nor do I really so wish) all the complicated considerations which led Napoleon III to give Viterbo to the Pope in the latter part of 1860. Click here to know more about this figure in history. Go back in this blog to Buonconvento, south of Siena, to see how close the kingdom of Italy is, in the north, with the vote of Tuscany to join the kingdom. There is another thesis no doubt in how and why this plaque was erected in 1910

... and here next is the 1872 monument to some of those who died for Italian independence from 1848 (when a socialist revolution briefly succeeded in Rome, as in other cities in Italy and Europe)... we know nothing about this generally in Australia, but might here record that Raffaello Carboni of Eureka Stockade fame (not mentioned in Viterbo, this is a minor diversion, scusi) had fled to Melbourne after the collapse of the Roman Republic. It is little known in Australia that after getting off a treason charge for his incitement of the Eureka Stockade events in Ballarat he returned to Italy and had a role of some significance in Italy's reunification, ending his days writing in Naples.

Here, across the Piazza del Plebiscito from the castle where those plaques are located, is the entrance to the Palazzo Governo, of the province.
and here, just a step away, left of photo, photo not knowing its future historical importance, is the door of the Caffe Leonardo, in via San Lorenzo... the bar where I left the car keys not the toilet key on Tuesday!!

and one proceeds through urban beauty

This remarkable little church was site of a major historical event.

Here on the outside wall is a not-easy-to-photograph plaque which records a great and enuring disgrace on the city of Viterbo. Here, on the morning of 12 March 1271, Guido e Simone di Montforte (the brothers Guy and Simon de Montfort) assassinated during Holy Mass none other than Enrico Cornavaglia (Henry of Cornwall, come on pilgrimage to see the pope, then resident in Viterbo). The monstrous nature of the crime was of course that they did it in the church and during the mass! Though if you read how Henry's dad had done in Guy and Simon's dad, and if you care a thought for the fact as the sort of plug-and-play King of England for a bit in the thirteenth century their dad actually convened the first vaguely representative parliament, you might have gone to help. If you wish to understand life in such luscious times, do not fail to read the text at this link. The wars of Murdoch and Berlusconi for the world are but metaphorically to the death ... but such a terrible, terrible punishment for a bloke who wanted a parliament, dirty little socialist.

... and so on through blissful sunshiny streets we proceeded...

Those of you seeking to replace your washing machine consider (this photo leaning over a parapet) the cold springwater Bash'n'Bash system, free replacement workers as and when...

... before entering this delightful piazza before the cathedral.

before having a peek at the place where cardinals met in conclave to select their popes. Indeed, this is where the practise began, and initially disgusted the populace. You can see the holes in the floor where poles were put up to support the tents erected inside for the non-agreeing popes at the first conclave, after the locals ripped the roof off, to tell the cardinals they were fed up with feeding them. The second source of this story, first told to us by Noelene and Ian, is impeccable, to say the least. And hey listen, if you go to the end of the news release at that link you will see that last year the pope went on to Bagnoregio... when we decided just a few minutes that we would go to Bagnoregio today, for less holy purpose! Must fly!!

But, before we fly, here, photo from the piazza outside the cathedral: all please pay homage to another most important historical item in Italian history, the Fiat Cinquecento which brought the postwar nation, riding motorscooters, indoors in the late-1950s and 60s.

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