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Medieval Arts and Crafts

Between winery stops I am going to tell you about a visit to another medieval town. Umbria has these beautiful little towns on hilltops wherever you go. They are just far enough apart that one can imagine a person living in the 15th century in Assisi or Bevagna for their entire life and never traveling to the other. I would need to bone up on the local history to know who they had to fortify the villages against, but each one is surrounded by formidable walls with solid gates.

This post will center on Bevagna.


Info sheet at the gates to Bevagna. I could only imagine what it said.


Once you get inside the gate (no passport needed) you start to climb toward the center of town. That is just the way it is in these medieval cities. It seems that you must climb going in or out!


Once you have reached the center of the city,things level out. The 15th century is alive and well. One guide we had told us that these walls inside the city were once covered with plaster and painted pastel colors. Indeed if you look at old paintings you see that. She told us that in the 18th century this was somehow a cause for concern and that the plaster was removed. I don’t buy that. I think the artists were using artistic license.

This church supposedly contains the rock from which St. Francis preached when he had to ask the birds to be quiet. It is a major legend, you can look it up.

Every year in June the town has a celebration, reminiscent to me at least, of a renaissance faire.  The entire town dresses in medieval costumes. This celebration is not intended to be a tourist attraction, they do it for themselves to celebrate their heritage. That being said, I think it would be a wonderful time to visit Bevagna for a day during a longer stay in Umbria. Included in Bevagna’s celebration is a contest for the best recreation of medieval crafts. We visited two past prize winners. A papermaker and a candlemaker.

Paper making in Bevagna

This guy was really cool. He has won the town’s competition for preserving the art of paper making. He demonstrated it to us. It is a long, time consuming process, but he seems to love his work.

paper making in Bevagna

The first step is the mulching of a combination of cast off clothing and hemp into a sloppy paste which then gets pressed onto a screen type of thing (hey, I am not a techie). The paper receives a watermark, and is then dried. Altogether from rags to paper the process can take three months. I pruoudly own a sheet of his paper. It is anything but modern. I’ll never use it because you need a quill to write on it and forget about a laser printer!

paper make bevagna

This is Mary Ann leaving the paper makers abode, asking me, “what the heck are you going to do with the paper you bought?”

Lapis lazuli

We stopped at an artist compound that does mostly religious art. Beautiful stuff. They use the medieval methods, including creating their own colors from natural elements. The blue stone in the box is Lapis Lazuli. This stone is the original blue. Michelangelo and Raphael used in in their frescoes. It was and is still is an expensive way to make the color blue. I asked how much this stone cost. I realized I could finance a trip to Italy if I filled my suitcase withe Lapis I can buy here in the UAE for a lot less money!

candle maker Bevagna

We then went to a candle maker. He uses pure bees wax to make some wonderful candles. I got a chance to make my own. I can now say I made the world’s ugliest candle!

We also went to a Olive oil producer. I will cover that in a future post, so stay tuned.

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