Orvieto (ōrvyĕˈtō) [key], city (1991 pop. 21,419), in Umbria, central Italy, on the Poglia River. Situated at the top of a rocky hill, it is a tourist and pilgrimage center. Orvieto is probably located on the site of the Etruscan town of Volsinii (sacked by the Romans in 280 B.C.), which was later rebuilt as Urbs Vetus. It became a free commune by the 12th cent. but was later at the mercy of indigenous and foreign tyrants until it passed to the popes in 1448. There are notable Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance buildings in Orvieto, but the fame of the city is due mainly to its beautiful cathedral (begun in 1290). The cathedral's white and black marble facade is decorated with delicate sculptures and colorful mosaics, and the Chapel of San Brizio, inside, has frescoes by Fra Angelico and by Luca Signorelli, whose powerful scenes of the Apocalypse inspired Michelangelo. The city also has a well (200 ft/61 m deep) dug in rock (completed 1537).
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