It takes it's name from the 5th century Irish legend of St. Patrick and the cave (often referred to as a pit or well) in County Donegal which was shown to him by Christ. The cave subsequently became a pilgrimage site and is now known as St. Patrick's Purgatory.
The well was constructed in the mid 16th century by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger at the request of Pope Clement VII. The Pope had taken refuge in Orvieto after the seige of Rome in 1527 and he had concerns about the water supply to the city. He feared that if Orvieto were to come under attack the current water supply would be insufficient. The well was designed to provide sufficient water for everyone in case of seige or other disasters.
Antonio da Sangallo the Younger designed a masterpiece of engineering by surrounding the central shaft of the well with two spiral ramps in a double helix. It can be accessed by two doors which where mules transporting water could go down with full vessels one way and come up with empty ones the other, thus avoiding congestion and creating a smooth running operation.
Pozzo San Patrizio is 54 metres deep and the cylindrical base has a diameter of 13 metres. It is lit by natural light from 70 large windows and has 248 steps.
Photo: Bob Tubbs
Photo: Bob Tubbs
There is a Latin inscription on the well 'QUOD NATURA MUNIMENTO INVIDERAT INDUSTRIA ADIECIT' which means'WHAT NATURE STINTED FOR PROVISION, APPLICATION HAS SUPPLIED.
It is possible to take the steps to the base of the well, if you dare, and feel the ever cooler air as you descend. From the floor of the well you can stare up the towering cylinder to the sky above you and admire the ancient architecture and structure of the well. The light provided by the windows creates some fascinating effects creating some unusual and spectacular opportunities for keen photographers.