Pozzo di San Patrizio, or St. Patrick’s Well in English, was built between 1527 and 1537 by Antonio Sagnallo the Younger at the behest of Pope Clement VII in Orvieto, Umbria, Italy. The Pope who took refuge in Orvieto during the “Sack of Rome” deemed it necessary to build a well as a water supply in case of a siege. The initial name of the structure was “Pozzo della Roca,” coming from the name of a fortress nearby. The current name references the legend of St. Patrick’s purgatory. According to the legend, the Irish saint retires to an endless cave to pray.
The cave represents a metaphorical descent to the afterlife as well as a way of redemption. Accordingly, the well annually celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with green lights hanging from the cave. Sagnallo also took inspiration from the spiral of the Belvedere in the Vatican. So, he designed two spiral staircases that never connect to each other. This design enables visitors to descend and ascend the 53-meter-deep well without any traffic. Both staircases comprise 248 steps and they are naturally lightened by 72 arched windows.