Lombard 'tempietto' - Santa Maria in Valle monastery, 8th century AD
The Lombard 'temple', also known as the Oratory of Santa Maria in Valle, is situated inside the monastery of the same name; it is one of the most important surviving examples of Lombard architecture and art in Italy. The building was founded in the 8th century as a palatine chapel of the royal court – which explains its high quality. It then became the monastery chapel, subsequently passing into the hands of Cividale del Friuli Council.
Externally, the building has a sober appearance – in stark contrast to the rich decoration that is still present inside. The interior consists of two rooms, divided by an ancient barrier: the presbytery area covered by three barrel vaults and an almost square chamber with a groin vault. The walls of the latter are interrupted by alcoves with arches; the westernmost of these frames the main entrance and still has its original appearance. Numerous components such as corbels, lintels and columns are of Roman date, and were deliberately re-used in this building – as also were the columns, pillars and other Byzantine-era items present in the barrier that separates the presbytery from the main chamber. On the walls there are outstanding stuccoes, a group of six saints and martyrs, as well as an arch with a vine branch, and elegant wall paintings depicting saints and Christ with archangels.