[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail: Bill Thayer 
[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home

Cows


[image ALT: A largish group of buildings all sharing walls. They consist of (1) a nondescript two-story stuccoed rectangular farmhouse-like building on our left; (2) to its right, a somewhat taller Romanesque stone church with an arched portal, a pair of small lancet windows, above them a rose window and a gabled roof; (3) to its right, the largest building, though most of it not seen, a stone structure with a machicolated portion over a wide arched door; and (4) behind these buildings and to the left, a five-story square belfry of mixed stone and brick, with a clock halfway up, and above it two stories each with arched openings, the whole topped with a cupola. It is the church and monastery of S. Pietro in Bovara, Umbria (central Italy).]

The church of S. Pietro in Bovara by late afternoon sunlight.

What, you say, you don't see any cows. Alright:


[image ALT: A 10-section Romanesque stone rose window of columns radiating from a central hub; beneath the window, a strip of stone with stylized garlands of vine and flowers carved in low relief. In the wedge-shaped spaces between the rose and the frieze on either side, a corbel-like projecting sculpture of a cow's head. It is part of the façade of the church of S. Pietro in Bovara, Umbria (central Italy).]
The classic Umbrian rose of the façade, and a pair of bovine corbels.

OK, so what? Plenty of Romanesque churches have corbels with animals — these aren't actually corbels, since they don't support anything — and the cow is in fact particularly common, since it's the symbol of the evangelist Luke.

Well, yes and no. Luke's cow is one of a kine, not two; and almost always part of a set of four, the other three being Matthew's angel, the Lion of St. Mark, and St. John's eagle; yet here, these are nowhere to be seen.

We don't actually have much of a puzzle, though: the name of the town gives it all away. Bovara appears to come from the Latin (forum) Boarium, or "cattle market". Now if that sounds a little far-fetched to you, it turns out that this little area of Umbria between Trevi and Spoleto, never very far from the banks of the Clitumnus river, was very famous indeed in Roman times — for its cattle; the references are usually to Mevania, the modern Bevagna, but see the article Mevania in the Encyclopedia Britannica and my note there. Vergil sang them in the Georgics (2.146‑48: Latin English), and other writers explain that the beautiful white cattle of the area favored for temple sacrifices in Rome itself were brought from here, their whiteness being due, it is said, to the river itself; finally Orosius, at least according to Durastante Natalucci (p210) although I've been unable to find it in the ancient author myself, is very specific: Juxta caput Clitumni tunc stat nobilis edes (. . .)º non procul hinc villa est quae dicta Boaria prisco nomine quod thaurosº magnis albore triunphisº consuevit; and substantial Roman remains have been found in the immediate area (see ProTrevi's page).

The Clitumnian race of cattle, also, still exists; or at least, the Chianina, a breed of powerful white draft animals, with the same body shape as those shown on such monuments as the Ara Pacis in Rome, is said to descend from them. Displaced by the tractor, they're not as common as they once were; but I finally tracked some down.


[image ALT: A corbel-like stone sculpture of a cow's head, projecting from a stone wall. It is a detail of the façade of the church of S. Pietro in Bovara, Umbria (central Italy).]
With apologies to Gelett Burgess, now you've seen one.

There is more, of course, to Bovara than its eponymous cows: inside the church, for example, we have an attractive wild pig.


[image ALT: A painted surface made to look like an assortment of precious marbles: in the center a round boss-like space with a dove, wings outstretched, against a background of stylized clouds or beams of light. It is a detail of a wayside shrine in Bovara, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 4/11/09: 1 edicola, 5 photos ]

In and around Bovara there are a dozen or so wayside shrines. I've seen and photographed some: this one in the Colle Alto area is the most attractive (16c). Others will make it onsite by and by, too.

Stay tuned then as I expand the site; and see the ProTrevi link in the navigation bar below.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 29 Aug 12