Norcia, (Latin: Nursia) an ancient town of Italy, in the province of Perugia in southeastern Umbria, at 42°48N 13°06E, at 604 meters (1982 ft) above sea-level in a wide plain abutting the Monti Sibillini, a subrange of the Apennines with some of its highest peaks, near the Sordo River, a small stream that eventually flows into the Nera, and the town is thus popularly associated with the Valnerina (the valley of that river). The area is known for its clean air and beautiful scenery, and is a very good base for mountaineering and hiking. It is also widely known for hunting, especially of the wild boar, and for sausages and ham made from wild boar and pork, to the point that Norcia has given its name to such products: in Italian, norcineria.

Norcia is 47 km (29 mi) NE of Spoleto and 40 km (25 mi) W of Arquata del Tronto. According to the 2003 census, its population was 4900.

History and Monuments

The town's history begins with settlement by the Sabines in the 5th century BC. It became an ally of ancient Rome in 205 BC, during the Second Punic War, when it was known in Latin as Nursia, but the earliest extant Roman ruins date from around the 1st century. St Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine monastic system, and his twin sister St Scholastica, were born here in 480: this remains Norcia's principal claim to fame.

The older core of Norcia is entirely flat, which is relatively unusual among the towns of Umbria, and completely enclosed by a full circuit of walls that has survived intact from the 14th century, despite many earthquakes of which several were devastating (1763, 1859, 1979). In that wall the visitor can see Roman inscriptions reused as building material (spolia). Many other Roman vestiges are observable thruout the city, especially in the walls of S. Lorenzo, its oldest extant church.

After the earthquake of August 22, 1859, the Papal States, to which Norcia then belonged, imposed a stringent construction code forbidding structures of more than 3 stories and requiring the use of certain materials and building techniques.

The main church in town is the basilica dedicated to St Benedict: though the present edifice was built in the 13th century, it stands on the remains of one or more small Roman buildings, sometimes considered to have been a Roman basilica, or alternately the actual house in which the twin saints were born.

Other churches include the Renaissance church of S. Maria Argentea (the Duomo) and the Gothic church of S. Agostino with its many votive frescoes of St Rocco and St Sebastian.

A papal fortress, the Castellina, was built in the 16th century and now houses a small museum with Roman and medieval artifacts, and documents of the Middle Ages and later periods.

External links

  • Norcia.Net (
  • Bill Thayer's site (
  • UmbriaTurismo (

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