Key to Umbria: Bettona

Nunneries in Bettona

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Santa Caterina (1439)


                                   Ex-nunnery from outside the walls                    Facade of ex-church,

                                                                                                             inside Porta Vittorio Emanuele

The original church of Santa Caterina outside the walls was originally part of a nunnery that belonged to the the Abbazia di San Crispolto.  It had been abandoned by 1239, when the Commune requested authorisation from Pope Gregory IX (who was in Perugia) to transfer it to friars from the new  Franciscan order in order that they could help with the pastoral care of the town.  This community moved to San Crispolto in 1266.

A community of Benedictine nuns that was subsequently established here left their nunnery after suffering violence at the hands of “Monaldus Filippi de Bictonio”.  Three years later, Suor Dania, who was the widow of Giovanni Crispolti and a Franciscan tertiary from Sant’ Anna, Foligno, established a community of her order here.   Pope Eugenius IV confirmed the foundation in a letter to Bishop Andrea Giovanni Baglioni of Perugia in May, 1439. 

The nuns moved to the present site in 1519.  The community was in financial difficulties by 1573, when the Apostolic Visitor, Monsignor Pietro Camaiani recommended that all of the novices should be returned to their homes.   Nevertheless, it survived and, in the 18th century, had an important role in educating the young ladies of the noble families of the town.  It remained active until the early 20th century.  The church was transformed into a theatre in 1920.

Art from the Church

Mystical Marriage of St Catherine (ca. 1600)

This altarpiece from the high altar of the church is now in Santa Maria Maggiore.  It depicts the Madonna and child with SS Catherine, Crispoltus, Francis and Antony of Padua.

San Giacomo (1483)


                                       Ex-nunnery from outside the walls            Facade of ex-church,

                                                                                                               inside Porta Primo Maggio

A Benedictine nunnery with this dedication was founded at an unknown date outside the walls of Bettona.   It seems likely that the nuns who were expelled from Santa Caterina in 1436 moved here.

The nuns suffered a fire in 1479, after which the sought permission from Pope Sixtus IV to merge with the Monastero di San Tommaso, Perugia.  This was strongly opposed by Bishop Barnaba Bennati of Assisi.  The matter was subjected to arbitration, and the decision was announced in 1483 in favour of the new bishop of Assisi, Francesco Insegna.  A few of the nuns from Bettona decided to remain at San Tommaso, while the remained moved to a new nunnery on the present site.  In 1490, they were expelled because of their bad behaviour, and the nunnery was assigned for  period to the Franciscan Third Order.

The Apostolic Visitor, Monsignor Pietro Camaiani recorded San Giacomo as a Benedictine nunnery when he inspected it in 1573.  It was, like Santa Caterina (above) in financial difficulties, and he recommended that all of the novices should be returned to their homes.

The complex was suppressed in the Napoleonic period - part of it now belongs to the Suore Francescane Missionarie Di Gesu Bambino.

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