Italian little Italies: Venzone, a living room within the walls
- WTI Magazine #103 May 19, 2018
Venzone, in the province of Udine, in Friuli Venezia Giulia, owes its fortune to the fact that it has been an obligatory passage to the north since the time of the Celts in 500 BC. Then the Romans made the town one of their stands along the route of the Via Julia Augusta from the site of Aquileia to Norico (now Central Austria). Such information is certified by the various archaeological finds unearthed during excavations for the restoration of the Duomo, which proved the presence of the Roman building in the area of the church, which was probably flanked by the castrum.
Later, over the centuries, there have been various invasions by Guadi, Marcomanni, Visigoths, Huns, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Lombards and Carolingians. During the Carolingian dominion (776-952) the first certain urban centre of Venzone dates back.
In 1200 the Patriarch of Aquileia gave the Land of Venzone as a feud to the Mels family, which increased the prestige of the citadel until the recognition of its legal status as a municipality (1247) and the birth of a weekly market (1252). In 1258 Glizoio di Mels fortified the town with a double wall, surrounded by a deep moat.
The defensive system of Venzone, in ancient times, included at least 5 castles, located in strategic points to better dominate the valley. Between these two stands in the right Tagliamento, at the foot of Mount S. Simeone. The one called Monfort, was located north of the town of Pioverno while the other, Plovergno, was located south, not far from the Riûl dai Fraris.
Venzone was almost constantly in conflict either with the patriarchs or with its neighbour and rival Gemona or with the Counts of Gorizia or with the Dukes of Carinthia, passing from one to the other Lord.
Venzone since 1965 is declared a National Monument as the only fortified fourteenth-century village of the region and later became one of the most extraordinary examples of restoration in the architectural and artistic field.
In 1976 a series of seismic events managed to bring the wonderful medieval village to its knees, seriously damaging it. After not even 20 years, thanks to the strength and the will of its inhabitants, Venzone was reborn with the Town Hall (1984), with the Old Town (1988) but especially with the Cathedral (1995), symbol of the earthquake and rebirth. The church was restored after a long period of recognition and numbering of stones: about 9500 stones that have returned exactly where they were before the earthquake, possibly supplemented and restored individually with the same care with which you intervene on a work of art.
The whole town was actually rebuilt stone after stone. The stones in fact, with incredible patience, came back to the place they occupied before the earthquake. All this was possible thanks to the huge photographic and documentary archive created before the earthquakes.
Entering from the door below, a round arch dating back to 1835, we immediately find on our right Marcurele House, the oldest building being built in the eleventh century, in Romanesque style with mullioned windows in bas-relief. Further on, proceeding northwards, we find the fourteenth-century Palazzo degli Scaligeri and Palazzo Zinutti, a thirteenth-century building with an elegant gallery with wrought iron parapet and baroque door.
The Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral of the 14th century is considered the monument of the post-earthquake restoration. Consecrated in 1338 by the Patriarch of Aquileia Bertrando, it has a T-shaped cross plan, composed of a longitudinal nave and a large transept, with the three apsed presbyters and the two towers. The organ of the Venzone Cathedral dates back to 1792 by the organ master G. Callido. In the front square of the Duomo we find the Chapel of St. Michael, built in 1200, now the seat of the Mummies of Venzone: their history dates back to 1647, when the mummy of the "hunchback" came to light, the first of forty extracted from the tombs of the Cathedral.
Walking quietly through the historic center, we come across Casa Calderari, built in the fourteenth century. From the cozy inner courtyard, also home to the Tourist Office, we can reach Piazza Municipio, where the Town Hall stands. It is a Gothic palace built in the early 1400s, restored in the early 1500s and equipped with the clock tower, whose external facades are decorated with a series of coats of arms of the oldest noble families of Venzone refined by mullioned windows in the Gothic style.
In the northern part of the square we find Palazzo Orgnani Martina, noble palace of the eighteenth century, now home to the main museums and temporary exhibitions; opposite is the former Palazzo Radiussi, palace of the fifteenth century with Renaissance balcony and Gothic mullioned window.
Once we arrive at the north door, descending from a side street, we find Palazzo Pozzo, noble palace of the seventeenth century and then after the former convent of the Augustinians. It is a building of the fifteenth century, with a porch of the seventeenth century. Here we find the remains of the Church of St. John the Baptist, built in the fourteenth century. Its ruins bear witness to the violence of the 1976 earthquake, which spared only the main facade of the building with the portal bearing the architectural characters of Gothic style with the capitals decorated with figures and floral motifs. Crossing transversally the historical center we find the fourteenth-century tower of defense, door S. Genesio.
The village of Venzone is surrounded by an interesting double circle of walls of the thirteenth century, a large moat surrounds the first wall that forms an embankment on which is built the second, interspersed with rectangular towers, and on the south-western corner stands a polygonal tower. Interesting is the north-western corner of the walls, which climbs up a hill and where there are two towers that dominate the communication road. The north-eastern tower is grafted on the edge of the internal walls and the only door still existing, although rebuilt after the earthquake, is on the eastern curtain.
Just outside the fortified town we can enjoy the view exploring the paths of the Julian Pre-Alps Natural Park or walking through the ancient Celtic path that connects the fifteenth-century churches that surround the town in a unique and pleasant way.
The name Venzone, of pre-Latin origin, was first mentioned in 923 A.D. as Clausas de Abiciones, and later Albiciones became Aventinone, Avenzon, Avenzone and then Venzone. The toponym derives from "av-au" - "flusslauf" (watercourse) therefore from the name of the torrent Venzonassa.