Friday, July 24, 2009

Chronicles of Narni

On Tuesday we took a class field trip to Narni, a nearby pre-Roman town (previously called Narnia) that inspired CS Lewis to write the Chronicles of Narnia because the beautiful landscapes and medieval structures create a fairytale-like setting. I had been there before where I purchased my amazing and outrageously expensive jeans with Isa, but this time I got to see less stores and more history.

I think it is most effective to describe my trip to Narni with pictures and descriptions, some of which I have kidnapped from Narni Sotterranea's (Narni Underground) website, that you can go to for extra information and many more beautiful photographs.

Google translation in English:

In the town square. We started our trip with a little tour around the town to see all of the beautiful medieval structures.

Other side of the main square. That restaurant with the columns is so cute!

A medieval fresco in an old church. They are in desperate need of conservation, but are still very beautiful

We were fortunate enough to get a tour of the Teatro Comunale which still has many shows and operas performed there. The inside is absolutely beautiful.

These chandeliers in the Teatro were marvelous! I want one for my own!

Inside the Teatro

We were able to go into the Duomo and pretty much have free reign. Nothing was roped off really and we were able to explore many beautiful pieces of artwork, relics, and crypts. We were even able to go down into that area you see here where the relics are. This reminded me of St. Peter's, but on a smaller scale and with free access. :-)

I love this statue.

Doesn't this look like the wardrobe into Narnia?! I'm small but there I am on the left, emerging into a fairytale!

Relics in the Duomo

Down into what I called "the relic pit."

One crypt was open for people to come and look inside...creepy...

After we went to the Duomo, we were able to go to the Narni Museum, which was surprisingly high tech with absolutely fabulous displays from a curatorial perspective. This is one of them, where a bronze cup from 1303 is featured in its own room with an explanatory video (unfortunately in Italian) and this dramatic display with lights.

The picture at the top of this blog with me by the lion (Aslan!!) was taken at the entrance of the museum and is a testament to Narni's embrace of pop culture and the relationship to the Chronicles of Narnia, much like how Forks, WA has embraced the Twilight series and flourished.

One of the most important pieces in the museum's collection is Ghirlandaio's Coronation of the Virgin (1486) which is in immaculate condition and has never been restored, only cleaned. One whole room is dedicated to explaining the piece, with a large video screen with a fascinating video (in Italian, of course!) and this lit panel, seen here, that breaks down the lower half of the painting by which Saint is where, and what symbolism is used to identify them. Amazing!

Here is the Coronation of the Virgin. It was breathtaking! It was displayed singularly in a dark, climate controlled room with special spotlights and a box with different switches that highlighted different areas at a time while providing information about specific parts. Without the spotlights, it was easy to get lost in such a busy composition. This is probably one of the coolest ways to display an important piece!

We had a museum guide explain to us about the various parts of the piece, all while a track of modern music played in the background by a group who was inspired by this piece and played a song using only the instruments depicted here. Very cool!

Here you see the spotlight in action, highlighting the triangular composition which is the most stable visual arrangement and also represents the Holy Trinity.

Here is St. Anthony, who is my hero!

Some of our group heading off to lunch! We ate the most fabulous food in a tiny restaurant run by one woman and perhaps her son, where none of the tables or chairs matched and the menu was hand written on a paper towel. Everything I tried was absolute heaven. It was like home cooking!! We all passed around different kinds of pastas and meat and desserts. It was one of my favorite restaurants so far!

A beautiful view of the lake and the castle!

One thing we did was visit Narni Sotterranea, or Narni Underground, where the convent of San Domenico had a secret underground premises including a church with beautiful frescoes and a prison complete with torture chambers for those accused of crimes like blasphemy or eating meat on Friday during the Inquisition. It was discovered in 1979 by boys who were digging in a garden looking for "treasure" per request of an old man. You can now take tours and go into all of these places, which is SUPER awesome. Here are some of the robes in the beginning of the tour. Scary dudes!

On the front desk was this article (in English! yay!) that is so incredibly interesting, I'm actually going to type it out for you in another blog so you can read it. It's amazing!

Since we weren't allowed to take pictures on our guided tour, I borrowed some from the website listed above in this blog. This is the church with the angel frescoes. They've added a dude there, which makes it more creepy!

This is the torture chamber, where they have these torture devices set up! That pyramid thing on the left was new to me. You tie a rope around a prisoner's waist and haul him up to the ceiling, then drop him on the pyramid. It doesn't matter where it hits will just abuse you however fate decides it. Yikes!

On the left of the torture chamber was this tiny cell where the prisoners were kept. It was so cool because there is TONS of grafitti made by scratching chains or broken terra cotta plates that the food was served on. There is tons of symbolism in these pictures, and you can follow the story of some people by following the series of symbols and pictures they left in the cell. One story is from a man whose name I can't remember but he was an officer of the Inquisition who was caught trying to free some early prisoners in I think 1759. His pictures show incredible religious faith as well as symbolisms that suggest he may have been a free mason, and statements against his imprisoners including doves chained to a tree that is actually the church with recognizable towers as a real location. He also kept a calendar of how long he was in the cell. For more pictures of this fascinating place, visit:


  1. I think they pull off the classy embrace a bit better than forks....

  2. Hey Harasyn,
    I've been following your incredible story. I think it's your first international bestseller book! It's like a guide book coupled with an adventure story and romance novel! You're a wonderful writer. But you didn't mention what these last three spooky pictures are and who is that person in the black cloak?
    Jessica (from class)

  3. I forgot to mention the English link didn't work on Narni's website. I hope the Art School is working out. I'm still interested in going, but I'm also still waiting to see how it turns out for you. Congrats on the NY Times article.

  4. Hey, Jessica! I know the original post was incomplete because the internet cuts out every so often and I wasn't able to finish it. I included the google English translation links because the English version of the website doesn't work.

    I'm glad you are enjoying the blog! I'll try to keep 'em coming!

  5. I could feel the bad ju-ju. Just like when you say sliding down a banister made of rzor blades. I could definitely NOT work in the torture chamber places. Remember when we went to the castle in England and I couldn't handle the dungeon & you and hadley went in? Whew! Cool visit though. You have seen so much!!!