On lively Piazza Garibaldi, on the side opposite the monument dedicated to the hero of the two worlds, is the church of S. Gregorio Maggiore. The building was constructed between the late XI and the early XII centuries over a primitive church with adjacent cemetery, of which traces remain in some elements, such as the capitals of the crypt. According to tradition, the original religious edifice had been built in honour of the eponymous Spoletino martyr at the behest of the pious widow Abbondanza to house his body.
Although it underwent many changes over the XVI and XVIII centuries, the aspect of the building remains remarkably similar to that of other city churches (S. Eufemia, S. Giuliano) and churches in the region (S. Brizio, S. Felice di Giano), proof of the penetration of Lombard Romanesque architectural influence throughout the area of Spoleto.
The bell tower also dates to the XII century. The lower part has large blocks of stone recovered from older buildings. The upper part was completed in the late 1400s.
The facade is preceded by a XVI century portico and graced with a lovely entrance thanks to a renovation project ordered in 1597 by Bishop Paolo Sanvitale. The three arches embedded in the upper part, on the other hand, date to the XIV century.
Left of the portico is the Chapel of the Innocents, decorated with scenes that recount the history of the church and of St. Abbondanza, one of which depicts her ordering the church of San Gregorio to be built to house the bodies of the martyrs and the martyrdom of the saints as they are thrown to their deaths from Ponte Sanguinario, or the Bloody Bridge. In the background of one scene is a lovely portrayal of the city of Spoleto, with all of its major landmarks.
The floor of the chapel is of terracotta dating to the XVI century and the lovely baptismal font also dates to the same time. Well worth noting is the pluteus used as a lintel above the door to the left. It is most likely from the VIII century and is decorated with a palmed cross with a lion on either side, plant motifs and peacocks. It bears witness to sculpture from Spoleto in the High Middle Ages, tied to the world of the Longobards and the models of San Salvatore.
The inside shows the signs of many interventions and renovations. It is frescoed in many parts with work done mostly in the XV century. Many pieces recovered from other buildings are used here, like the columns and capitals, from Classic and Paleo-Christian edifices.
The crypt is lovely and divided into three naves. It too is rich with material taken from older buildings in ruin. The sarcophagus by the left apse is traditionally identified as that of St. Abbondanza. In the little room near the entrance are many human remains that once lay in the ancient cemetery.
Adjacent to the church is a cloister dating to the XVI century with two rows of arches, octagonal pillars of terracotta and stone, of the type commonly used in Spoleto (the Monastery of the Stella and of San Ponziano, Sant’Ansano, Rocca Albornoziana).
On the other side of the Porta Leonina, at the eastern edge of Piazza della Vittoria, fenced in by an iron balustrade, is the point of access to the Ponte Sanguinario, which dates to the I century AD. It became covered in earth when the Tessino river changed course and was only rediscovered in 1817. It has been waiting to be completely uncovered since then. The massive bridge, built with huge square blocks of travertine, has three arches and is 24 metres long by 4.47 metres wide.
Address: Piazza Garibaldi/Piazza della Vittoria