(active 770s in Lombardy)

Interior view

Tempietto Santa Maria in Valle, Cividale del Friuli

Cividale del Friuli was the capital of the first Lombard duchy in Italy.

The Tempietto Longobardo (or Santa Maria della Valle) at Cividale is essentially one room, two storeys high, with a screen across the east end making a sanctuary. Against the west wall is an aggregation of sculpture in stucco, once a common medium but subsequently almost all destroyed. Above the entrance, which is decorated in abstract motifs, are six life-size female saints flanking a central arched niche. The beautiful carving has sharp cuts and linear qualities, while the vine trails and interlace are precise. Both the vine trails and the female saints carefully follow Early Christian prototypes, except for the figures' peculiar elongation. These stuccos and their accompanying wall paintings have been dated variously between the 8th and the 11th centuries. There are no obvious close stylistic parallels, and they may reflect the conservative aspects of Lombard taste.

The school of the Lombards was influential in the construction and decoration of Italy's Romanesque churches. The Lombards were a Germanic tribe that descended from the north-east, beyond the Alps, with the conquests of the Lombard King Albonio in 568-72, establishing centres north of the Venetian lagoon, at Cividale and Aquileia, and surrounding the Byzantine Exarchate territories along most of the western Po, and as far north as Como and as far south as the foot of Italy. The remarkable Tempietto of Santa Maria in Valle at Cividale, from 772-76, is an early example of the richness of Lombard decorative work, fusing Byzantine and even Saracen influences, which would have been communicated through the southern Italian territories of the Lombards.

View a sectional drawing of the Tempietto showing the lavish interior decoration.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.