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San Domenico, the secret attics

by Agnese Priorelli

Attics always hide great secrets. Sometimes you just have to look up and go up to find hidden treasures. The church of San Domenico is well known, but what has been hidden in its attic?

The attics of San Domenico, photo by engineer Alessandro Polidori

The tour between the attics

Few have ventured up there, but today we bring you to those rooms, thanks to engineer Alessandro Polidori who, together with architect Giulio Ser-Giacomi, wants to valorize this important site of Perugia. A place that will allow you not only to walk through the story, but also to enjoy a breathtaking panorama.
«The attics of San Domenico are a very special place, full of historic elements, each one deserving careful observations and reflections – explains Engineer Polidori -. Every single stone has something to tell. Not only a beautiful panorama to be seen from the top of the bell tower, climbing and walking on the extrados sometimes makes you realize how majestic and magnificent the 14th Century church could be.»
The vaults that you can admire today were built in the mid-sixteenth Century by Architect Carlo Maderno  who reconstructed them after the collapse of the early Gothic times, recreating them precisely as we see them today, with the exception of the lateral chapels, added in the 18th Century, and of the apsidal part of the church that had not collapsed: the choir and the four side chapels.
«The attic of San Domenico hides the signs of these modifications – continues the engineer – By visiting them you can observe the ancient medieval pillars emerging from the present vaults, the extraordinary shape of the capitals and the openings that once granted natural light».


Courtyard of San Domenico, photo courtesy of engineer Polidori

The project of valorization

To make this visible to the public, there is a project under formulation, which involves the creation of three possible routes. «We start with the basilica tour, then we will go to the sacristy, after admiring the reconstructions of the 14th Century plant thanks to Ugo Tarchi’s watercolors and, thanks to the air spaces , we will climb up to the height of the attic – illustrates Polidori – Above the vaults, the paths unwind between the two aisles’ vaults, the nave vault, the chorus’s one, the apsidal chapels’ ones and sacristy’s, and then go upstairs to the fifth floor of the bell tower: a real panoramic terrace overlooking the Umbrian valleys and an unusual and beautiful view of the historic center of Perugia.»
The idea of ​​valorization and visibility of the attic and bell tower came from various ideas and saw the friars working together, in particular Fr. Mario Gallian, from the early 1990’s, with architect Giulio Ser- Giacomi and the Cultural Center San Tommaso D’Aquino; then architects Ser-Giacomi and Maria Carmela Frate, who dealt with the restoration after the 1997 earthquake, and finally the latest proposal, with engineer Alessandro Polidori helped by architect Ser-Giacomi. For more than twenty years now, San Domenico has been the subjected to valorization projects..
«Someone has proposed to create a museum path in the attics – concluded Polidori – to show the true basilica’s “heart” and allow visitors to reach the highest point of the bell tower to enjoy a 360-degree panorama of Perugia. To do this, further work is needed to make these sites safe and accessible to the public, so that visits can be carried out in total safety and be accessible to everyone.»


san Domenico

San Domenico basilica photo courtesy of engineer Polidori

Invisible place

For now, a visit is only allowed during special events, as will happen on Saturday and Sunday from 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm thanks to the Invisible Places 2017 initiative, which will give everyone the chance to admire palaces, towers, attics, places of worship and industrial archeology sites closed to the general public. Among them there are the attics of the imposing church of San Domenico, secret spaces born almost by chance from a 17th Century renovation; a place that preserve the traces of the original Gothic church.


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