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San Rufino: Cappella della Madonna del Pianto

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                                       Cappella del SS Sacramento       Cappella della Madonna del Pianto

This chapel, which is reached from an opening to the left of the apse, stands on the site of original apsidal chapel, the Cappella di San Paolo.  It was closed in ca. 1575 as part of the remodelling of the church, and re-opened and remodelled in 1895

The present dedication of the chapel refers to a polychrome stucco sculpture of the Pietà that was housed here.  It became known as the Madonna del Pianto (Our Lady of Tears) in 1494, when the Madonna was seen to weep after Perugian forces under Gianpaolo Baglioni devastated Assisi: 
  1. it was removed when the chapel was closed and placed on the Altare di San Rufinuccio (on the left in the presbytery of San Rufino) in 1586;

  2. it was removed from that altar in 1848 and returned to this chapel in 1895, at which point the chapel took on its present dedication; but

  3. it was stolen in 1982. 

The wooden Pietà (1985) in the niche in the altar wall is a modern copy of it.

The chapel took on its present in 1894: 

  1. Frescoes (late 13th century) that were detached from the walls at that time  are now in the Museo Diocesano (see below). 

  2. The altar, which was brought here at that point,came from the church of San Nicolò di Piazza.  This was the altar at which St Francis opened a Bible three times at random in ca. 1207 in order to determine his vocation.

Tomb of Bishop Giuseppe Placido Nicolini (died 1973)

Bishop Giuseppe Placido Nicolini was a much-loved prelate, not least because he protected Assisi itself and its Jewish community during the German occupation in 1943-4.  His tomb is on the left wall, below a bronze relief (1973) by Enrico Manfrini that depicts Bishop Nicolini protecting Assisi.

Art from the Chapel

Frescoes (late 13th century)

These frescoes, which are attributed to the Maestro di Santa Chiara, were painted on the walls of the left apsidal chapel of San Rufino soon after its construction.  The chapel was walled up as part of the restructuring of San Rufino in the 16th century, and the frescoes were then forgotten until 1894, when work began on the construction of the present chapel.  They were detached at that point and are now in the Museo Diocesano.  They were detached from the walls at that time.


The recognisable scenes (from left to right in the illustrations above) depict:

  1. a figure of the Virgin to the right of a fragment from a Crucifixion, and a scene of the Visitation to the right of it;

  2. a scene of the Nativity and the adoration of the shepherds;

  3. the grieving face of the Madonna; and

  4. a right hand raised in blessing. 

See also the note on Art from San Rufino.

Read more

F. Santucci (Ed.), "La Cattedrale di San Rufino in Assisi", Assisi (1999)

J. Raischl and A.  Cirino, “Three Heroes of Assisi in World War II: Bishop Giuseppe Nicolini, Colonel Valentin Müller, Don Aldo Brunacci” , (2005) Assisi

A. Ramati, “The Assisi Underground: The Priests Who Rescued Jews”, (1978) New York,

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