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Fossombrone (Pesaro province)

A town of the northern Marche: 43°41.5N 12°48E.   Altitude: 118 m   Population (2003): 9700
A small circular chapel, maybe 4 meters in diameter and 6 meters tall, surmounted by a tiny circular lantern. In front of it, a splendid column with an iron cross on top; the whole in an urban park setting. It is the chapel of the Madonna del Popolo in Fossombrone, Marche (central Italy).

The Madonna del Popolo, in the upper town (18c).

Fossombrone is a regional center along the middle stretch of the Metauro valley, founded in the 2c B.C. as Forum Sempronii, either by C. Sempronius Gracchus — the date often seen in this connection is 133 B.C. — or by another less famous member of his family. It was, and is, the main town on the Via Flaminia between the mountain towns of Acqualagna and Cagli (15 km and 25 km SW, respectively) and the Adriatic at Fano, 28 km NE.

Its strategic location has turned out to be a curse rather than a blessing. After its destruction in 555 by the Byzantine general Narses and again in 741 by a Lombard army under Liutprand, the town was moved from the flat area in which it was founded (the modern Pian S. Martino) to its much more defensible present site. After that, unfortunately, all the powers of central Italy fought for control of it, the principal players being the princes of Este, the Malatesta family of Rimini, and the Papal States, which acquired it in 1631, at which point Fossombrone's history folds into the history of modern Italy.

The chief monuments of Fossombrone are a castle and fortress complex on the flank of the hill overlooking the town: the Corte Bassa, the Ducal Palace, and the Corte Alta, which are now partly used as ancient history and art museums. This being Italy, there are the inevitable churches: unfortunately, the city had a bout of major prosperity as a silk-weaving center in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the larger churches were all fundamentally rebuilt during that period. To my mind the best church in town is S. Filippo, not a rehab of anything existing, but built from scratch in 1608‑1613: good proportions and beautiful, exuberant Baroque — and I'm not much of a Baroque fan.

A proper website will eventually appear here, since in the course of walking the Flaminia from Umbria to the Adriatic I did visit the town. For now though, you will find it useful to read my diary entry for Aug. 12‑13, 2000, which includes additional photos; if you are of a historical bent, the brief article Fossombrone (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911); and for further, more complete information, see the sites linked in the navigation bar at the foot of the page.


May 2001, a first crabwise step into the construction of that proper website:


[image ALT: A small stone mosaic depicting the astrological sign Sagittarius. It is a detail of an 18c meridian in Fossombrone, Marche (central Italy).]

[ 1 page, 3 photos ]

A look at an 18c meridian in the cathedral.


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Site updated: 25 Mar 09