The Pozzo di San Patrizio (St. Patrick’s Well) in Orvieto, Umbria, central Italy, is one of the most ingenious water supply systems in history.
It was designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger at the behest of Pope Clement VII (construction started in 1527 and was completed in 1537 under the direction of Giovanni Battista da Cortona) and consists of a circular shaft 54 meters deep, with 72 arc windows and surrounded with two helical staircases of 248 steps. In this way, mules could carry empty and full water vessels separately in downward and upward directions. At the bottom there is a bridge connecting the two interior staircases, from which people could scoop up water without the need for pack mules.
The path inside the well is physical, but also magical and spiritual: from the top to the bottom, from light to dark and back again, to suggest the idea of a “purgatory” purifying.
The whole thing is of great suggestion.
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