Necropoli di Sovana

The Tomb of Ildebranda

Visit this ancient part of the Sovana Necropolis

The Tomb of Ildebrando was discovered in 1924 by one of the Rosi brothers. Since then, it has been studied in every minute detail by Ranuccio Bianchi-Bandinelli. The tomb dates back to the third-second century BC and is considered the most important monument not only of the necropolis in Sovana, but in all Etruria. The tomb has nothing whatsoever to do with the pope of the same name. Rather, it was named after Ildebrando because when this imposing and ‘bizarre’ tomb was discovered, nothing was known about the person it belonged to and so it was named after the town’s most illustrious citizen.
The tomb is split into two distinct parts: the Burial Chamber and the Funerary Monument. Both of these were built by digging into the ground not far from the heart of Sovana. The Monument was built without the addition of any exterior parts and it’s for this reason, and considering the crumbly nature of the earth, that many of its architectural elements have been lost. Archaeologists have been able to realistically reconstruct this part of the tomb thanks to several decorative fragments which were found during digs and by comparing this tomb to the front of the temple at Talamone. The reconstruction shows that the Tomb of Ildebrando was built in the style of a Greek temple. Several architectural elements underline the socio-cultural links between Etruscan culture and ancient Greece. The Monument had a high podium with two side stairways on which were 12 columns marking the edge of the ‘Pronaos’. A ‘Coronamento’ sat on top of these columns and was the most important ornamental element. It had a frieze on three sides which depicted a series of griffins, human figures and plant motifs. The whole Monument was covered in polychrome stucco, in accordance with decorative Etruscan art which favoured the use of gaudy colours. Sadly, little remains of the original Monument, although it still has the power to bewilder today.
The Burial Chamber sits symmetrically under the Monument. It doesn’t have any decorations and no original fragments remain as the Chamber was desecrated in ancient times. Access to the Chamber is through a central ‘dromos’ which goes down approximately ten metres and through a fourth century BC tomb. The interior of this tomb is Greek in style and the ceiling is highly decorated. The Tomb of Ildebrando is located in a dominant position, not far from the Etruscan ‘Cavone’ road. The tomb represents not only a grandiose work of architecture, but also a sacred site and most probably a point of reference for wayfarers passing through the area of Sovana.

A place suspended in time, where the Etruscans build a majestic necropolis
Sorano and the surrounding towns are filled with examples of their Etruscan origin, which dates back to the period of this civilization’s greatest splendor. Sorano was built on a high rock and this extremely picturesque position captivates all who visit it. With the passage of time, it has come to resemble a natural cliff, only slightly refined by the Renaissance architecture. ...