Wonder  }  Place of worship

Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Tarvisio

The Cross and the Bastions: a fortified church on the border with Slovenia

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Where is

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Piazza Unità, 15, 33018 Tarvisio UD, Italia (745m s.l.m.)


What it is and where it is

A special, austere charm emanates from this building with its dual nature as a place of worship and a military-defense complex. Breaking away from the nearby, rather noisy center of Tarvisio, here, we sink into the quiet tree-lined park and wander along the surviving rear fortified perimeter of the complex. We seem to go back in time: it must have been reckless to live in that outpost surrounded by mountains and forests in the days of fierce Turkish raids.

Why it is special

We are in the presence of a fortified church, built in the 15th century in the Carinthian Gothic style, not without Baroque elements inside, but with external defensive structures, such as walls and towers. The complex stands at the center of Tarvisio (the easternmost municipality in the province of Udine) and thus of the Val Canale, and is therefore both a geographic and ethnic crossroads: Latin and barbarian first; Germanic, Slavic, Italian, later.

Not to be missed

It is not easy to choose on what to focus one's attention: the exterior has a historical-mystical flavor when one walks through the cemetery area, finally climbing the steep stairs to the wooden balustrade of the circular tower, in a whirlwind of historical memory and mystical reflections on life and death. A distinctly Gothic atmosphere floods with light as we enter and are greeted by its riches: the wooden choir, the altarpiece with a casket from the 500s, the tabernacle fresco...images and scenes full of meaning, the deciphering of which fascinates believers and non-believers alike.

A bit of history

So it was said of the tombstones: all of them suggestive, starting with those from the Roman period. There are some inside, such as one dedicated to the von Rechbach dynasty, of considerable sculptural value. Outside-fixed to the ancient rampart or scattered around the tree-lined park-the one of Councilor Schinigin stands out: an elaborate stone tale that would not disfigure in an anthology of sinister Gothic tales.


Inside, the altar dedicated to St. Francis Xavier includes a curious altarpiece, a kind of (valuable) forgery: not only is the subject another and more famous Francis-Francis of Assisi-but the work faithfully reproduces a painting by Murillo preserved in Seville.

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Recommended by
Massimiliano Penazzi

Compounding its dual nature, this church is a complex place that challenges us to understand how two such different souls can coexist in peace.


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