Key to Umbria: Gubbio

Abbazia di San Pietro (11th century)

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A community of Benedictine monks established an abbey here perhaps as early as the 8th century, on the site of a very early building (perhaps a Pagan temple).  [Two sarcophagi (8th century) were found nearby ??]

According to local tradition, the present church was consecrated in 1058 (although the earliest surviving document dates to 1092). 

The ancient church of San Felicissmo is recorded as a dependency of the abbey in 1160.

The abbey became extremely powerful and had jurisdiction over an extended area.  Abbot Offredo ensured that it was well represented in the privileges that the Emperor Frederick I granted to Gubbio in 1163. 

The monks owned the ancient church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, which was near the site of the famous meeting of St Francis and the wolf of Gubbio in 1206.  Bishop Villanus (1206-38) prevailed upon the monks to give it to the first Franciscans in Gubbio, who built a simple hermitage nearby. 

The Blessed Sperandio took vows at San Pietro in the 13th century and was its  abbot for a period up to his death in 1260.  He was instrumental in helping the Blessed Santuccia to establish her nascent order of nuns that became the Serve di Maria.  In 1265, Santuccia fell foul of the new abbot of San Pietro, Giovanni, who excommunicated her.  Fortuantely, she had influential supporters, and Pope Clement V took the nuns into papal protection. 

San Pietro belonged to the Cassinese Congregation until ca. 1505, when it passed to the Olivetans from San Benedetto

In the early 17th century, the monks of San Pietro donated the land the Confraternita della Piaggiola on which it built the present church of Santa Maria della Piaggiola.  The prior of San Pietro consecrated this new church in 1625, despite the objection of Bishop Alessandro del Monte.

The Olivetan Abbazia di San Bartolomeo was placed under the jurisdiction of San Pietro in the 18th century.

Pope Gregory XVI suppressed the Olivetan Congregation in 1831, and San Pietro passed to the Camaldolesians of the Eremo di Fonte Avellana

The monastery was suppressed (like San Bartolomeo) in 1861.  Its church now serves the surrounding parish.  The ex-monastery has housed the Biblioteca Sperelliana since 2010.


The façade incorporates an ancient portico (perhaps from the 6th century).   [Traces of a Romanesque basilica (11th century)]

The two lateral windows were opened in 1598 when the rose window (13th century) was walled up to make way for a Flemish organ (see below). 

The refectory can be reached from the corridor that links the two cloisters, one from the 16th and the other from the 17th century.

The grounds of this abbey used to extend as far as the inner arch of the double gate of Porta Vittoria, and the small room above it was a punishment cell. 


The church originally had a nave and two aisles, but a remodelling in the 13th century transformed it into a single nave with a vault supported by huge arches in what had become the Gubbian style. 

The Olivetans further remodelled the interior, leaving only the polygonal apse untouched. 

The stucco decoration of the church was added in the 18th century.  The secondary organ in the apse also dates to the 18th century.

Organ casing and choir (1580-4)

In 1580, the monks commissioned a new organ from Vincenzo Fulgenzi, il Fiammingo (who is sometimes wrongly given as Vincenzo Beltramo).  The commission proceeded slowly and the organ  was finally finished by “Cristoforo Tedesco” in ca. 1598.  It was installed on the counter-facade.   As noted above, the two lateral windows were opened at this time.  Only its beautiful casing survives.

The monks commissioned this casing and its associated choir from Antonio and Giovanni Battista Maffei.  “Mastro Cosmo dal Borgo” (perhaps Cosmo Alberti, from Borgo Sansepolcro) was paid in 1584 for the nine polychrome statues of Muses in the niches of the choir below.  The casing, which was completed in 1584, includes the arms of Pope Gregory XIII and those of the Olivetan Order.  The structure was modified in 1686, when the chapels to the sides were closed to make way for the extension of the choir.

St Sebastian (16th century)

This altarpiece, which is by/attributed to Virgilio Nucci, is in the 2nd bay on the left.

St Michael (ca. 1655)

This altarpiece, which is by/attributed to Francesco Allegrini, is in the 3rd bay on the left.

Crucifix (13th century)

This wooden Crucifix in the left transept once formed part of a group of figures representing the Deposition.

Works of Giuseppe Nicola Nasini (18th century)

Four panels were documented in 1786 with an attribution to Giuseppe Nicola Nasini, two in each of the transepts.  Another document from the mid 19th century added to this list an altarpiece of the Blessed Bernard Tolomei (the founder of the Olivetan Congregation, to whom the chapel in the right transept was dedicated).

  1. The two panels in the Cappella del Crocifisso (in the left transept) survive in situ.  They depict:

  2. the Deposition; and

  3. the road to Calvary.

  4. The three works in the Cappella del Beato Bernardo Tolomei were removed in 1831 when the church passed to the Camaldolesians:

  5. the altarpiece of the Madonna and Child enthroned with Blessed Bernard Tolomei is now on the 2nd altar on the right, but

  6. the two side panels, which probably depicted scenes from the life of the Blessed Bernard Tolomei, no longer survive.

Scenes from the Life of St Romuald

These three panels were installed in the chapel in the right transept after it was re-dedicated in 1831 to St Romuald, the founder of the Camaldolesian Order:

  1. The altarpiece (1831) by Agostino Tofanelli depicts the death of St Romuald.

  2. The panels (ca. 1850) by Filippo Vittori to the sides depict two other scenes from his life.

Works attributed to Raffaellino del Colle

The frescoes (1540) in the Cappella di San Benedetto (the 5th bay on the right) and the contemporary altarpiece are attributed to Raffaellino del Colle.  The work corresponds to documented payments made in 1539 to “Rafaelle pintore e compangni”.  The work was commissioned by the Nuti family, which owned the chapel.

  1. The frescoes depict:

  2. St Benedict in glory with other saints, in the upper register;

  3. St Benedict receives St Placidus into his monastery, on the lower left; and

  4. St Benedict receives St Maurus into his monastery, on the lower right.

  5. The altarpiece depicts the Adoration of the Magi.

Visitation (16th century)

This altarpiece, which is attributed to Giuliano Presutti, is in the 4th bay on the right.

Panels (1630)

The altarpiece of the Martyrdom of St Bartholomew in the 1st chapel on the right is signed “RUT. MA” (Rutilio Manetti).  Two smaller panels in this chapel, which are also attributed to this artist from Siena, depict St Onofrius and St Francis.

Saints (ca. 1654)

The frescoes above and to the sides of the altarpiece in the 1st chapel on the right, which are by/attributed to Francesco Allegrini, depict:

  1. St Ubaldus holding a model of Gubbio (to the left); and

  2. an unidentified bishop saint.

[Also SS Francis of Paola and Philip Neri; unidentified saints, one male and one female - where ??]

Annunciation (1613)

This panel in the lunette of the Cappella del Rosario [where??] is signed by Virgilio Nucci and dated by inscription.  The altarpiece that he pained for the altar below was removed in ca. 1930 - see “Art from the Church” below.

Ex-Chapter Room

Coronation of the Virgin and saints (1569)

This altarpiece in the ex Chapter Room was originally signed by Benedetto Nucci and dated by inscription, but this has been obscured by over-painting.  It retains an inscription that identifies its commissioner, “Donna Magdalena de Tomasuccis”.   It depicts St Peter (wearing a papal crown) and St Ubaldus, each of whom kneels on a balcony and contemplates the Coronation of the Virgin above.

Madonna and Child with saints (1589)

This altarpiece in the ex Chapter Room is signed by Benedetto Nucci and dated by inscription.  It depicts the Madonna and Child enthroned, with two angels to the sides and three saints below: St Laurence; St Romuald (identified by inscription); and an unidentified saint.

Art from the Church

Frescoes (1439)

The now-lost frescoes for the chapel of Agnolo di Cecco di Agnoluccio dei Carnevali in San Pietro were the last-known commission of Ottaviano Nelli.

Madonna della Piaggiola (early 15th century)

This fresco, which is attributed to Ottaviano Nelli, seems to have been painted for the Abbazia di San Pietro.  The monks gave it to what was then the Oratorio di Santa Maria della Piaggiola in 1454.  It is now on the high altar of the present church: an inscription on the wall to the left of the first chapel on the left records that it was moved here from the earlier church in 1624. 

In this unusual iconography, the Madonna holds a small but mature figure of Christ, who in turn holds a scroll with a text that translates: “I am the light of the world: He who follows me shall not walk in darkness”. 

Unfortunately, this important fresco has been heavily repainted.

Tabernacle (1555-61)

Girolamo Maffei received payments for this tabernacle for the high altar in 1553.  There seems to have been some dissatisfaction with its design, and a new design was commissioned from Giorgio Vasari in 1555.  In 1559, Girolamo and his brother Giacamo Maffei were commissioned to complete it.   It was destroyed in 1680.

Crucifix (1581)

Th e monks commissioned this crucifix from Antonio Maffei, but it no longer survives.  That is particularly unfortunate because we have no other example of his work as a sculptor. 

St Frances of Rome (1611)

This altarpiece, which is signed by Virgilio Nucci dated by inscription, was removed from the Cappella di Santa Francesca Romana (later the Cappella del Rosario) in ca. 1930 and  is now in the deposit of the Pinacoteca Comunale.  It depicts the saint, who had been canonised in 1608, in the company of an angel. 

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