One of the alluring aspects of Italy is that there are so many layers. You peel away what you see on the surface and there is another layer, and another. This is evident on the street as you observe an arch within an arch within an arch speaking of years of change and transition. It’s beautiful.
Because we had a mosaic group earlier this year we wanted them to see and be inspired by the mosaic floor of a Byzantine church underneath the “contemporary” church of St. Andrea. Here they would see the layers: Byzantine underneath St Andrea and on top of Roman which is on top of Etruscan.
Above is an Etruscan furnace underneath the floor of the Byzantine mosaic floor, underneath the floor of St. Andrea. When the Romans defeated the Etruscans about 200 B.C. they banished them and shut the city down for nearly 700 years. Slowly, dirt piled up on top of the Etruscan ruins until Orvieto was finally reoccupied in the 4-500 A.D. period.
The rough stone at the bottom in the image above is the base for the smooth stone on top – an Etruscan street. Above that is the accumulated debris of centuries and then the base for the Byzantine church floor with the mosaics on the floor. The Etruscan streets ran northwest to southeast unlike the Christian orientation of due north-south/east-west.
Immediately above you see the mosaic floor, the “modern” foundation of St. Andrea with the base of the Byzantine column coming out of the foundation. This column had supported the Byzantine church ceiling above and is still helping support the floor above.
The Byzantine mosaics are beautiful. Below are bits and pieces from the Byzantine church.
Pavers above, lead to an Etruscan well, once part of the street but then covered by the church 700 years later
The rough block at the bottom is Etruscan. The smooth block above it is Byzantine. The concrete beams from St Andrea rest on this ancient pier. The Etruscan foundation still at work 2500 years later.
Kristi and Bill Steiner began leading “learning vacations” to Orvieto, Italy in 2003. Through Adventures in Italy they provide a cultural immersion experience. Many trips include the pursuit of some kind of creative work that complements and reinforces exploration of Italy’s culture. Relationships built over the years enable Kristi and Bill to provide experiences that a typical visitor to Orvieto never gets.
Learn more about Kristi and Bill’s trips. Stay abreast of Adventures in Italy developments, and follow Bill’s musings about travel and Italy on his blog Make Haste Slowly. View Bill’s photos of Italy, Orvieto, and other memorable places at steinerstudiophotos.com, and follow him on Instagram.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.