crucifixion artwork

Damon Dimauro: Vittoria Colonna In Orvieto


Damon DiMauro is a professor of French and Italian at Gordon College, with particular interest in prominent figures in Renaissance Italy who were influenced by, and in turn influenced, the ideas of the Protestant Reformation.

Domenico Tordi

An essay on Vittoria Colonna in Orvieto would be incomplete without due mention of Domenico Tordi, who was born in Orvieto in 1857, and who remains to this day the most important Colonna scholar to have ever put pen to paper.[1] As a young man, Tordi chose a career in the Italian civil service and, by 1912, had worked his way up to become Head Postmaster of Florence, retiring there in 1923. In his spare time, he devoted himself to scholarly research, publishing documents he uncovered in archives and libraries and contributing articles to learned journals and newspapers. Over the years, he also patiently gathered an impressive collection of rare books and manuscripts, as well as some five thousand autograph letters from various writers of note. In his own last will and testament, which, as is fitting, was reproduced in pamphlet form after his death by the town fathers of his native city,[2] Tordi donated his entire stock of materials to the Orvietan municipal library “Luigi Fumi,” except, alas, those pertaining to Vittoria Colonna, which he gave instead to the National Library in Florence. His stated reason for setting apart the Colonna collection at the National Library was only so that future scholars might have more ready access to it.[3] But Orvieto remained the closest to Tordi’s heart, since he designated its soil to be his final resting place.[4] In fact, as early as 1886, in a letter to his wife Erminda, he lamented the woeful neglect in which Vittoria Colonna’s memory had fallen, that “not even a stone is left to signal her passage on earth,”[5] and thereby expressed the desire to see her commemorated in some way by his home town: “I have endeavored and do endeavor to give my country the honor of her rightful rehabilitation, by putting perhaps a small marble tablet in the Convent of San Paolo where she repeatedly sought refuge.”[6] It is not clear whether Tordi ever realized his design to erect a monument to Vittoria in Orvieto. But by the time of his death in 1933, after four decades of painstaking research and document gathering, he was to bequeath a legacy for future generations of scholars which was to fulfill his plan in ways that he could not have imagined.

[1] See Alan Bullock, “Domenico Tordi and Vittoria Colonna: Forty Years on,” Italica, Vol. 55, No. 1 (Spring, 1978), 20-35.

[2] Il Gr. Uff. Domenico Tordi e il suo testamento. Pubblicazione fatta a cura del comune di Orvieto. (Firenze: Mori, 1937).

[3] See Alan Bullock, art. cit., 22.

[4] “Voglio che il mio corpo… sia trasportato ad Orvieto… accanto alle salme della mia unica premorta figliuola Giulietta… e della mia sempre lacrimata sposa Erminda Casini di Firenze, per la scomparsa delle quali non ho avuto più gioia vera su questa terra.” Quoted in Alan Bullock, ibid., 34.

[5] “Nemmo una lapide sta a segnare l’orma sua su questa terra.” Quoted in Alan Bullock, ibid., 28.

[6] “Ed io ho tentato e tento di dare alla mia patria il vanto della dovuta riparazione mettendo magari un breve marmo nel Convento di S. Paolo dove elle cercò pace ripetutament.” Ibid., 28. When Tordi wrote these words, he was relying on previous scholarship—to wit, a letter mistakenly dated 1532 from Orvieto—in believing that Vittoria had set foot in the city before. However, he himself would prove that the letter should be dated from August 1541. On this topic, see his “Vittoria Colonna in Orvieto durante la Guerra del Sale,” art. cit., 531-533.


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