Key to Umbria: Città di Castello

Blessed James of Città di Castello (17th September)

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Blessed James (17th century)

Santa Mari di Belvedere

The Blessed James, who was born in Città di Castello, joined the Franciscan convent of San Francesco soon after it was established in his native city.  When he died in 1292, he was buried under the high altar.  Donal Cooper (2001 and 2005, referenced in the page on the church) has deduced that the body lay in a crypt and was visible from an opening that was probably at the back of the high altar.   The inscription on the side of this altar record the presence of these relics: they remained here until 1620, when they were translated to the Vitelli Chapel of the church.

The reason for the beatification of the Blessed James is unclear, but he presumably impressed his brothers by his particular holiness.  His relics must also have performed posthumous miracles.  However, they had one conspicuous failure: the parents of the young (and the later Blessed) Margherita of Città di Castello brought her here seeking a cure for her blindness in ca. 1292, and abandoned her when their hopes were dashed.   

Blessed James as a Sculptor


Front                                                                       Back

The Blessed James was documented in 1536 as a "sculptor insignis" (famous sculptor).  Cristina Ranucci (referenced below) has suggested that this was because of an inscription on the pulpit (1276) in the conventual church.  This pulpit was destroyed in the 18th century, but records survive of two inscriptions:

  1. one gave the date of the pulpit; while

  2. the other, which gave rise to the appellation above, read

"Hoc opus fecit Jacobus Petri

qui postea inter beatos adnumeratus est

et eius corpus sub altare maiori iacet"

(This is the work of the Blessed James Peter, whose body lies under the high altar)

From at least the 17th century, local scholars have suggested that the Blessed James also sculpted the high altar under which he was buried (illustrated above).  Unfortunately this altar was affected by the remodelling of the church in the 18th century, although some of the original carving survives:

  1. the surface at the front has three panels; while

  2. the rear surface has two rows of eight panels, carved in relief.

A standing figure of the Blessed James (illustrated above) is included in a series of statues (17th century) of local saints in Santa Maria di Belvedere.  It shows him leaning on a twisted column that he had sculpted.

Read more:

C. Ranucci, “Giacomo da Città di Castello, detto Beato Giacomo”, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani 54 (2000)

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