TOWER OF SAN BIELE
HISTORY and DESCRIPTION
The tower of San Biele, built in 1270 by Raniero Gatti, is one of the most beautiful towers in Viterbo. Over the outer arch, surrounded by two coat of arms of the Gatti family, there is an inscription explaining that it was built without imposing new taxes on the city. “In nomine D(omi)ni n(ost)ri Iesu Christi anno/ eiusd(em) MCCLXX ap(osto)lica sed(e) va/ cante XIII ind(ictione): ad honorem et reve/ re(n)tiam S(ancte) Rom(ane) Ecc(lesi)a ma(t)ris n(ost)re d(omi)n (u)s /Rain(erius) Gatt(us) novell(us) capit(aneus)P(o)p(u)li et Co(mun)is /Vit(er)bii pacis amator et ius(ti) tie cultor/ ann(o) s(ecund)o sui regim(in)is ha(n)c turrim he/ dificari et co(m)mpleri fecit absq(ue) gra/ vamine et collecta civitatis p(re)dicte”. It was originally called Tower of San Miele. However, the church to the left of the tower was named for the holy warrior San Michele or “Saint Michael”, like many churches in Tuscia. To avoid confusion, the tower’s name was eventually changed to San Biele. The tower, also sometimes referred to as Pietraia, is considered a masterpiece of the art of war. It is topped by Guelph battlements, with a coat of arms on the front design. On the bottom left corner, you can still see the coat of arms as you look at the tower from the city. The tower is divided into two parts, intricately designed to protect the city from the inside out. Two sunken, round-headed, arches and a façade with a pointed arch surround the tower. The tower sits in the lower section of the arches. The door inside the arches leads for a length, and then ends at the pointed arch. The other opening aimed to leave the tower defenseless if under siege. It allowed citizens to attack from within the city, and also allowed for immediate armament by the City by means of pulleys, without having to use the interior stairs. In a peace agreement made in 1291, the Romans wished to demolish the tower and its fortress. Although the fortress was eventually destroyed, the tower still stands. Today, in place of the fortress, stands the little house of Ferruzi. In 1493, Brother Giovanni of the Towers also founded an oratory near the tower. Perhaps this tower was part of a new section of the city walls to be erected on that side, where it was most often attacked. Under the arch you can see a slot for the gate and there until 1973, it was possible to see the remains of a fresco of the Madonna Enthroned with Saints. On the right is a portrayal of a woman praying, possibly Alessandra Alessandri, wife of Raniero. She offers the protection for the Virgin and her child. On the other side of the Madonna is Saint Antonio and the Baptist with the date 1611. What remains of the fresco is in the Civic Museum.
TOWER OF SAN BIELE
Traduzione di Marissa Navarro, studentessa dell’Università di Boise State, Idaho.Studentessa del Programma USAC presso l’Università degli Studi della Tuscia.
M.R. Giordani; Ricognizione delle torri medievali di Viterbo, in Case e torri medievali II, a cura di E. Minicis – E. Guidoni, Edizioni Kappa, Roma 2001.
M. Galeotti; L’illustrissima Città di Viterbo, Edizioni Studio Pubblicitario Viterbese, Viterbo 2002.
Scriattoli A., Viterbo nei suoi Monumenti, Viterbo, 1915.
Galeotti M., Illustrissima città di Viterbo, Viterbo, 2001.