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Norcia

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The town Norcia

The town Norcia keeps a strictly medieval structure, the typical look of an antique village walled in by a mighty city wall with embattled towers. There are eight gates where one can enter the city centre, all of them still in good state, as well as the main gate, the Porta Massari or Porta Ascolana, that is pointed towards the zone with which were fostered the most intensive trade relations.

The central square is dominated by the monument dedicated to San Benedetto built in 1880, while on the sides are the fortress Castellina, the Palazzo Comunale and the Duomo di San Benedetto.

The church of San Benedetto rises above the rests of an antique cult building which dates back to the Roman period or the early Middle Ages. The construction of the church began in about 1388 and it was restored after the earthquake in 1859.

The look of the façade is typical for the late 14th century with its Gothic portal and decorative sculptures in the lunettes, that contain the effigies of San Benedetto and Santa Scolastica.

The majestic church tower rests on the polygonal apse. On the church's right side is the picturesque Loggia dei Mercanti from the 17th century, inside which one can still admire the medieval stone weights, called ''misure'', which were used to weigh the grain.

The inside has the form of a Latin cross, result of construction works made in the 17th and 18th century, that modified to some extent the mainly Gothic structure, which can be seen still today at the pointed triumphal arc.

By the side of the altars' transepts are kept paintings of great value, like ''Our Lady, angels and seven saints'' of Vincenzo Vanenti at the right side, and ''San Benedetto and Totila'', a work of Filippo Napoletano from 1621 on the left side.

At the left side of the basilica rises the Palazzo Comunale, a building from the 14th century which has been restored several times. It has a beautiful portico with a terrace on it built in the 19th century. Very interesting is the Sala Sertoriana or Sala del Consiglio inside, decorated with paintings that show ''The Four Parts of the World'', the Cappella dei Priori with decorations from the 18th century and the Reliquary of San Benedetto, carried out in enamelled gilt silver by Giovanni di Antonio da Norcia in 1450.

In the same room is a valuable illuminated manuscript from the 15th century, a rare specimen of the ''Franceschina'', where Giacomo Oddi tells in vernacular episodes of the lives of the Franciscan saints.

On the other side of the square piazza San Benedetto opposite the Palazzo Comunale is the mighty Castellina, a solid four-sided fortress with corner towers.

It was built from 1554 on at pope Julius the Third's request as instrument to control the territory and it was planned by Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola.
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