Key to Umbria: Gubbio

Monastero di Santo Spirito (1468)

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Ospedale di Spirito Santo (13th century)

This church and nunnery stands on what was the site of the Ospedale di Spirito Santo, which was first documented in 1221.  It seems originally to have belonged to the episcopal authorities, but passed to the Corporazione di Mercanti e dell' Arte della Lana in the early 15th century.   The guild agreed to a request from Duke Federico da Montefeltro that the premises should be transferred to the nuns from Monastero di Santa Maria del Paradiso (below) in 1468.

[Two bifores from the old hospital can be seen in the wall of what is now the Post Office, in Via Cairoli]

Santa Maria del Paradiso (13th century ?)

This nunnery outside Gubbio was under the spiritual guidance of the canons of San Secondo.  The Blessed Gennara apparently joined the community in the 13th century and became its abbess before her death in 1293.

A small church that was probably built near the nunnery in the 13th century on the later site of Santa Maria del Prato belonged to Santa Maria del ParadisoAccording to tradition, it stood on the site of the house that the Blessed Gennara had shared with her husband, the Blessed Sperandio, before she entered the nunnery. 

In 1433, this nunnery absorbed that of Santa Caterina on Monte Ingino.  This was part of a programme of mergers of the disparate nunneries of Gubbio.  In 1465, Pope Paul II authorised Duke Federico da Montefeltro to continue the process.  The nunneries of Santa Maria Maddalena, San Sperandio (which had probably been established by the Blessed Sperandio and was dedicated to him) and Sant’ Agata were absorbed by Santa Maria del Paradiso at about this time, and Duke Federico persuaded  Francesca da Casteldurante, the abbess of Sant’ Agata, Urbino, to take over and reform the enlarged community.  She moved the nuns to temporary premises inside the city walls before alighting on her final choice, the Ospedale di Spirito Santo (above).

Monastero di Santo Spirito (1468)

As noted above, the Arte delle Lana agreed to transfer their hospice here to the nuns from Santa Maria del Paradiso in 1468.  According to a memorial written in 1631, Pope Sixtus IV gave permission for the relics of the Blessed Gennara to be moved from Santa Maria del Paradiso to this new nunnery in 1482.  (They were still here in 1856 but were subsequently moved to the Cappella del Santissimo Sacramento of the Duomo).

The nunnery was extended in 1495 but was badly damaged by a fire in 1590.  The premises were subsequently flooded and funds were so low that the nuns were hungry: their threat to eat all their remaining supplies and leave the nunnery succeeded in securing the help of  the newly-instituted Bishop Andrea Sorbolonghi in 1601.  In 1619, Pope Paul V granted indulgences to those visiting the nuns’ church at Pentecost.

The nuns of Santo Spirito inherited the small church that had belonged to Santa Maria del Paradiso mentioned above.  In 1662, Bishop Alessandro Sperelli verified the claims that an image of the Madonna and Child in this church  had performed miracles, and Lucio Pelaccioli (who was probably acting for the nuns) sought permission from the Commune for the construction of a loggia to protect the people flocking to the church.  A few month later, the nuns were given permission to use the funds generated for the new church of Santa Maria del Prato.  (However, they do not seem to have retained its ownership).

The nunnery was closed in 1905 when its four remaining nuns moved to Santa Lucia.

  1. The cinema (Cinema Italia) at number 15 Via Cairoli occupies the original church.

  2. The Biblioteca Comunale Sperelliana moved here from the Palazzo dei Consoli in 1974, but recently moved again.

  3. The complex also houses the Centro Convegni Santo Spirito , which has its entrance in Via Gioia.

Frescoes (early 16th century)

These frescoes survive in the nuns’ chapel, the Cappella del Rosario, which is in the garden behind the main building, entered from Piazza Arturo Frondizi.

Art from the Complex

Gonfalon of St Ubaldus (1503)

The Commune commissioned this double-sided processional banner, which is signed by Sinibaldo Ibi and dated by inscription. 

  1. One side depicts the standing St Ubaldus in episcopal robes, his right hand raised in blessing, and two angels, one of which holds his episcopal staff.

  2. The other side depicts the Madonna della Misericordia with musical angels and two groups of worshippers (one male and one female) kneel below.  Two of the angels above the Madonna hold a crown above her head.

The Commune entrusted the banner to the nuns of Santo Spirito, and it was carried in procession in times of need.  On the feast days, the Confraternita dei Bianchi carried it in procession from Santo Spirito to the Duomo, where it stayed on the high altar for the octave of the feast.  Controversy broke out in 1663, when the nuns unilaterally removed it from the Duomo on the feast of Corpus Cristi and installed it outside their nunnery.  The Commune, at the behest of Bishop Alessandro Sperelli, ordered its return to the Duomo and insisted that it should be kept in the chapel of Palazzo dei Consoli thereafter.   Cardinal Carlo Bichi, the vice-legate of the Romagna, mediated and arranged for the return to the status quo after the nuns had shown appropriate contrition.

The banner was restored in 1742 (by Giuseppe Reposati), in 1780 and in 1832.  It was enclosed in the present gilded wooden frame in 1833 and transferred “permanently” to the Duomo, although it continued to be used in processions.  It was restored again and  transferred to the Pinacoteca Civica in 1900.

Martyrdom of St Sebastian (ca. 1600)

This altarpiece in Sant Agostino (the 1st chapel on the right), which is attributed to Virgilio Nucci, was painted for the church of Santo Spirito.  It was originally curved at the top but later transformed into its current rectangular format.  It entered the civic collection in the 1920s and was transferred to Sant’ Agostino in 1975 because it was mistaken for a documented panel of the same subject from Sant’ Agostino that is actually lost.

Read more:

For Santa Maria del Paradiso, the Monastero di Santo Spirito and the relics of the Blessed Gennara, see pp 167-71 in:

  1. M. Ambrogi et al. (Eds), “Francesco Borromini e la Chiesa della Madonna del Prato: Francesco Borromini e la Chiesa della Madonna del Prato”, (2005) Città di Castello

For the Ospedale di Spirito Santo, see pp 31-8 in:

  1. P. Menichetti, “I 50 ospedali di Gubbio”, (1975) Città di Castello

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