Bring out your Dead! But use the Little Door, Please.

Gubbio, Italy

A quaint hill town in Italy called Gubbio sports a mystery. Why do many of the ancient houses lining the narrow, twisting streets have two front doors? Not a single double door, mind you, but two sets of doors, side by side, one diminutive.

The town is ancient, and the reason is long forgotten. Not even the town barber knows. I’m certain he doesn’t, because I asked him (although my Italian was a bit rusty, so I might have asked if his dog wears high heals while dancing in the refrigerator). To be honest, the only Italian I know is spaghetti, and that may be Chinese.

Some speculate these doors were used only when there was a death in the home, to carry out the body, an aporta dei morti (door of the dead). More likely there was a special on doors at the local Home Depotelli too good to pass up. “Well, I really need a window… but you just can’t beat the price of this door!”

Knowing a little about buildings, I personally think the first house built with an extra door was simply a construction error and the clever contractor convinced his client it was all the rage in Rome. Then the neighbors felt the need to keep up with the Jonesetti’s, and the fad caught on.

Doors for the Dead

Gubbio, Italy

Published by

Tim Bjella

Principal architect and interior designer for Arteriors / Bjella Architecture.

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