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The Longobard Temple (the oratory of Santa Maria in Valle)

Via Monastero Maggiore, 34 - Cividale del Friuli (UD)
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The Longobard Temple is located within the Monstery of Santa Maria in Valle and originates from the middle of the 8th century.
It is a religious building, probably a chapel or oratory which made up part of the Benedictine nuns convent founded by the Longobards.
At the end of the 19th century, the nuns donated the temple to the Community of Cividale at which point they built the hanging walkway on the Natisone, that still leads to the Piazza San Biagio, at the entrance of the building, so that visitors do not need to pass through the cloisters.

A unique building, its prestige deriving from the extraordinary series of work of arts inside: a sumptuous decorative pattern, including elaborate figurative-ornamental mosaics and stucco works, as well as a series of fresco works made in solemn and very refined style, make this temple one of the most delightful and glorious heritage from the 8th century.

The Oratory of Santa Maria in Valle is the most celebrated and best preserved monument of the late Longobard period.

Erected, maybe over preexisting buildings, in the Longobard Gastalda, directly behind the apse of the church of San Giovanni, it was established during the third quarter of the the 8th century as a palatine chapel of the royal Cividale court and then became a nuns oratory.

Its architecture is highly refined and characteristic: the rectangular hall, the pronounced elevation and barrel vault ceiling, rhythmic sequence of arched niches; to the East opening up to a lower presbytery, finishing straight, divided by three vaults that rest on roman marble architraves, supported by columns and pilasters. A marble surround, recovered from an earlier byzantine period, divides the the hall from the presbytery. On the walls of the oratory are preserved the remains of decorative furnishings of great value.

The stuccoes that adorn the high parts of the walls of the hall and the arches of the niches are unique in the Western world. From these there is preserved, on the inside wall, a life-size relief of the Saints and Martyrs and an arch with a grapevine shoot positioned to crown the entrance.

The frescoes, painted on he walls and the hall lunette, of the saints, of the Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus among the Archangels are excellent quality and elegance.

Originally marble sheets covered the lower parts of the walls over which were painted, on the Eastern side of the building, between the level of the stucco, an dedicatory inscription in verse which testifies to the high quality of the commission. The presbytery was also adorned with refined mosaics, with gold tessera, in the higher part of the back wall and maybe in all the vaults. The marble floor, with hexagonal and triangular geometrically pattered tiles, complete the rich ornamental furnishings of the jewel of late Longobard art.
The architecture and the decorations of the Cividale temple lead to the highest examples of artistic culture in the Mediterranean world, with explicit links to the experience of the late-christian and byzantine traditions.
They are works of art endowed with a highly refined language that gave expression to the will of the highest levels of the Longobard reign to create a new Ars Aulica or courtiers art.
In 1893 the Oratory was donated to the Cividale council which opened it to the public.

Further information
Tel: + 39 0432 700867