A Canterbury Trail

View of the city of Sutri with Cathedral, Lazio, Italy | Photo taken by Ulrich Mayring Rising above Via Cassia — an important consular road back in the days of the Roman Empire — just about midway between the Eternal City and Viterbo, sits the impressive and ancient hill town of Sutri.

Noted for its precious archeological finds covering the Bronze, Etruscan, Roman and Middle Ages, Sutri waves the orange flag of the Italian Touring Club, symbolic of the town’s high-quality, environmentally sound tourism. It goes without saying that Sutri’s treasure trove of priceless antiquities is the major draw for this community of 5,000 residents.

Sutri (VT), Italy - Courtyard of Palazzo del Commune - ©Tom Palladio ImagesWith a documented history of over 2,500 years, Sutrium, as it was originally called, includes from its past: an excavated Roman amphitheatre; an Etruscan necropolis with dozens of rock-cut tombs; a Mithraeum —  a secretive place of worship for practitioners of the ancient Persian-based mystery religion of Mithraism; the Church of the Madonna del Parto, cut into the cliff rock and utilizing one of the many Etruscan tombs; and, the ornate Romanesque Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.

Via Francigena pilgrimage route - Map  ourtesy the European CounselNot to be overlooked, Sutri was also a popular rest stop during the Middle Ages for millions of sandal-clad religious pilgrims making their way from up north to the Holy See in the south along the Via Francigena (the road from France) — the Italian portion of a series of roads and trails that actually stretched from far-away Canterbury in England, across the Channel into France, over to Switzerland, and eventually into Italy and down to Rome.

Truly, Via Francigena gives credence to the age-old saying, “All roads lead to Rome.”

Sutri (VT), Italy - Piazza del Comune - ©Tom Palladio ImagesIn 994 AD, Sigeric the Serious, the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, documented all 80 stages of his 1,700 km (1,100 mi) return trip from his pilgrimage to the Holy See. It was Sutri that served as the Archbishop’s third stage rest stop along the Via Francigena route back home to Canterbury — no doubt a winding and arduous journey with many a tale told along the way to pass the time.

Like Motel 6, the popular U.S. discount motel chain, Sutri, back in its heyday, probably “left the lantern on” for those countless groups of pilgrims needing a comfortable place to stay along Via Francigena.

©The Palladian Traveler



  1. Love the perfectly angled shots! And that you really captured enough on the images to envisions what you described is all about. I got curious more about Mithraism. Thanks always for the very interesting, informative post.

    1. Sylvia – 2,500 years seems to be the norm for most places around Italy. About those pics, I didn’t have a lot to work with and the weather was so-so. Glad you enjoyed the post. 1,700 km is a long walk in sandals, don’t you think? Doubtful they were wearing Birkenstocks.

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