Key to Umbria: Foligno

Blessed Paoluccio Trinci (14th September)

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Statue of the Blessed Paoluccio in the Duomo, Foligno

Paoluccio de' Trinci was born in Foligno in 1309, the son of Vagnozzo Trinci and Ottavia Orsini.  His father was the eighth of the ten sons of Rinaldo (Nallo) Trinci, whose appointment as Capitano del Popolo in 1305 had marked the start of the Trinci dominance of Foligno. 

Paoluccio became a friar at San Francesco, Foligno when he was about 14.  He was closely associated with the minority of the friars there who favoured the reform of the order.  This movement was boosted in 1350, when Pope Clement VI, at the behest of  Brother Gentile da Spoleto, allowed the friars of four Umbrian hermitages “to observe inviolate ... the Rule [of St Francis] in that purity and primal simplicity in which he wrote it”.  Paoluccio seems to have moved to one of these, the Eremità degli Arnolfi on Monte Torre Maggiore, near Cesi.  However, Pope Innocent VI revoked this concession in 1355, when Gentile da Spoleto was accused of heresy and imprisoned. 

Paoluccio now had to return to Foligno, where he faced persecution from his fellow friars at San Francesco.  His uncle, Ugolino II Trinci (died 1353), who was the effective ruler of Foligno, apparently found him there, black and blue, and removed him for a period, during which he lived a life of great simplicity in a tower in the Trinci gardens. 

Paoluccio was subsequently able to return to San Francesco.  In 1368, his cousin Trincia Trinci, who had succeeded Ugolino II, invited the friars to hold their Provincial Chapter in Foligno.  It was here that the Franciscan authorities were persuaded to allow Pauluccio and a small group of like-minded friars to move to the hermitage at San Bartolomeo di Brogliano.  This was probably so that they could escape the moves against the fraticelli that Pope Urban V had initiated in 1365.  (The hermitage at Brogliano  was conveniently remote, and on the border between the diocese of Foligno and Spoleto.  It had a history of adherence to the primitive rule, and had escaped suppression in an earlier offensive agains the fraticelli in 1355). 

The community became known as "the brethren of the family of the observance", or the "Zoccolanti" (because they wore wooden clogs).  It enjoyed the support the influential prelate, Alphonse of Pecha, who travelled to the papal court of Avignon in July 1373.  He persuaded Pope Gregory XI to allow ten more hermitages to follow the way of life at San Bartolomeo di Brogliano.  These included:

  1. the Eremità degli Arnolfi (above);

  2. San Francesco di Monteluco; and

  3. the Eremo dei Carceri, outside Assisi.

Alfonso of Pecha also secured approval for the way of life of the female Franciscan tertiaries at SS Annunziata in Foligno, and it seems likely with the sisters there were associated with Paoluccio in some way.

In 1374, Paoluccio defeated a group of Franciscan dissidents in a debate in Perugia and the Minster General transferred the Convento di Monteripido to his congregation.  In 1380, he was made general commissary for what were by then the 12 hermitages of the reform movement in central Italy, with permission to receive novices.  Other convents were subsequently assigned to him, including two outside Assisi:

  1. Santa Maria della Rocchicciola (in 1380); and 

  2. San Damiano (in 1384)

In 1388, Paoluccio established a nunnery for Franciscan tertiaries at the Monastero di Sant' Anna, Foligno.  (After his death in 1390, Blessed Angelina of Montegiove became the leader of the community).

Paoluccio was finally persuaded to leave Brogliano in 1390, when he was old and nearly blind, but insisted on walking the 20 miles to San Francesco.  He died there in 1391.

Just before Paoluccio died, Ugolino III Trinci gave him a fortress on the outskirts of Foligno.  Paoluccio’s successor, Fr. John of Stroncone built the church and convent of San Bartolomeo di Marano on the site in 1408-15.   The more “observant” members of the community at San Francesco moved here, and the complex formally transferred to the Observant congregation in 1450. 

Relics and Cult

In “La Franceschina” (below), Giovanni Oddi says that Paoluccio was buried with honour at San Francesco.  A number of documents written at this time specify that his grave was in the orchard here, and that the friars of San Bartolomeo used a nearby chapel that was dedicated to him.  The Observant Franciscans at San Bartolomeo retained close ties with their “conventual” colleagues at San Francesco throughout the 15th century.

The Observant wing of the Order mostly regarded Paoluccio as its founder, and he was recorded in some of the most prominent of its chronicles and legendaries, including:

  1. the “Specchio del' Ordine Menore” (1474), more commonly known as “La Franceschina”, by Fr. Giacomo Oddi da Perugia;

  2. the “Chronica Fratrum Minorum Observantiae” (ca. 1480) by Fr. Bernardino Aquilano da Fossa; and

  3. the “Vite de Sancti Frati Minori” by Fr. Mariano da Firenze, which starts with an account of the life of the Blessed Paoluccio that seems to post-date the split of the Order in 1517.

As Mario Sensi (referenced below) points out, as relations between the two wings of the Order began to deteriorate, the conventuals of San Francesco must have become more uncomfortable about the presence of the body of Paoluccio in the grounds of their convent.  According to Lodovico Jacobili (referenced below), who was writing in 1628,  its whereabouts were unknown.  Agostino da Stroncone, in his “Umbria Serafica” (1670), claimed that the friars of San Francesco had secretly transferred it to the remote church of  San Salvatore di Verchiano, outside Spoleto.  The sarcophagus that apparently contained the body survives there; Jacobilli new of this sarcophagus but did not know the name of the “hermit” whose body it contained.  The presumed body of the Blessed Paoluccio was recorded in the nearby parish church of  Santa Maria di Verchiano in the early 18th century. 

The cult of the Blessed Paoluccio languished until the approach of the 500th anniversary of his death in 1890, when Monsignor Michele Faloci Pulignani, the leading prelate in Foligno, undertook what proved to be the difficult and delicate task of reviving it.  In particular, he hoped to secure papal recognition for it on the graounds that it had existed “ab immemorabili”.  He canvassed a number of Observant Franciscan Convents for information about the cult, but received an amazingly thin response. 

Monsignor Faloci was also distracted by the murder of Bishop Federico Federici of Foligno in 1892 and the resignation of Bishop Albino Pardini two years later, which placed a burden of responsibility on his shoulders.   He visited Verchiano in 1895 in order to locate the presumed relics of the Blessed Paoluccio.  In the following year he devoted a volume of the Miscellanea Francescana (a journal that he had established) to the Blessed Paoluccio (see the reference below) and included in it an edition of the “Vita” by Mariano da Firenze (above).  Nevertheless, his efforts to promote the cause for papal recognition foundered. 

Monsignor Faloci returned to the fray in 1926, amid the religious fervour prompted by the 700th anniversary of the death of St Francis.  His second publication on the Blessed Paoluccio, which dates to this period (see the reference below), reported on a conference on this subject that he had organised in Palazzo Trinci.  It was presumably as a result of this initiative that the relics of the Blessed Paoluccio  were translated to the Duomo of Spoleto in 1934.  However, the cult still awaits papal recognition.

In 2000, Bishop Riccardo Fontana donated the relics of the Blessed Paoluccio  to San Francesco di Monteluco (above).  [Are they displayed there?]

Read more:

M. Sensi, “Dal Movimento Eremitico alla Regolare Osservanza Francescana: l' Opera di fra Paoluccio Trinci” (1985) Assisi

M. Faloci. Pulignani,

  1. Il Beato Paoluccio Trinci da Foligno”, Miscellanea Francescana 6 (1896) 97-128

  2. Il Beato Paoluccio Trinci da Foligno e i Minori Osservanti: Documenti e Discussioni”, (1926) Foligno

L. Jacobilli, “Vite de’ Santi e Beati di Foligno”, (1628) Foligno (pp 299-310)

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