Key to Umbria: Montefalco


Works in situ in San Francesco

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The art gallery of Montefalco is housed in the ex-church of San Francesco:

  1. Works from San Francesco that survive in situ are described below. 

  2. A second page describes other works in the Pinacoteca.

Christus Patiens (early 14th century)

The friars brought this painted Crucifix with them in 1340 when they moved here from SS Filippo e Giacomo.  It hung from the choir screen until 1562, when the screen was removed, after which it was moved tothe 3rd chapel on the right (its present location). 

The Crucifix, which is attributed to the Maestro Espressionista di Santa Chiara, also depicts:

  1. Christ the Redeemer, above;

  2. the Virgin and St John the Evangelist, to the sides; and

  3. the kneeling St Francis is at the foot of the Cross, kissing the nail in the bleeding feet of Christ.

Frescoes (ca. 1420)


These votive frescoes in the right apsidal chapel are the autograph works of the Maestro dell' Abside Destra di San Francesco di Montefalco.  They depict: 

  1. on the left pilaster:

  2. SS Bridget of Sweden and Antony Abbot;

  3. on the left wall:

  4. the Crucifixion (above); and

  5. the martyrdom of St Catherine of Alexandria;

  6. on the back wall:

  7. the Annunciation (above)

  8. St Apollonia, the Lamb of God and St Lucy (around the window);

  9. St Francis with a female donor, who clutches at his cord, a symbol of poverty, as the way to salvation (lower left); and

  10. St John the Baptist (lower right);

  11. on the right wall;

  12. the Madonna and Child with SS Peter and Paul (above); and

  13. the Deposition; and

  14. on the right pilaster:

  15. St Bartholomew.

Frescoes attributed to Giovanni di Corraduccio

Frescoes in three of the chapels of San Francesco are attributed to Giovanni di Corraduccio da Foligno:

Frescoes of the Cappella della Passione (1415-20)


These frescoes of Scenes from the Passion of Christ in the left apsidal chapel were rediscovered under plaster in 1915.  They include:

  1. the Crucifixion with the Virgin andSt John the Evangelist and with SS Mary Magdalene and Francis kneeling at the foot of the cross, on the left wall;

  2. the descent into Limbo and the Noli me tangere, on the right wall;

  3. the Annunciation, on the back wall, above a Crucifix that used the iconography of the Volto Santo di Lucca, which was destroyed by the insertion of a window (although the figure of the kneeling donor survives to the left); and

  4. Evangelists and Apostles, in the vaults.

Frescoes of the Cappella dell’ Annunzione (ca. 1435)

These tondi of Christ and the Evangelists are in the vaults of the 6th chapel on the right, which was the sacristy until 1499.

Frescoes of the Cappella di Santa Maria Assunta (early 15th century)

These frescoes of Evangelists, the Doctors of the Church and other saints and prophets are in the vaults and on the entrance arch of the 4th chapel on the right.  Those on the vaults depict:
  1. SS Jerome and Mark;

  2. SS Ambrose and Matthew;

  3. SS Augustine and John the Evangelist; and

  4. SS Gregory and Luke.

Frescoes of the Cappella di Sant’ Antonio Abate (ca. 1430)


These frescoes in the 5th chapel on the right are attributed to Andrea di Cagno.  They include: 

  1. Christ in glory and scenes from the life of St Antony Abbot, under the entrance arch, including this one, in which the Devil (with horns) dresses as a lady to tempt the saint;
  2. scenes from the life of St Antony Abbot in the vaults

  3. the upper part of a Crucifixion, on the back wall; and

  4. SS Fortunatus and Severus, on the exterior wall, flanking the entrance.

Works by Benozzo Gozzoli

Fra Jacopo da Montefalco, , who was the Guardian of San Francesco, commissioned Benozzo Gozzoli to execute a number of works for this church after its restoration in 1448.

Frescoes in the presbytery (1452)

Inscriptions carried by angels record: 

  1. the commissioner of these frescoes, Fra Jacopo da Montefalco, on the left; and

  2. the name of the artist and the date, on the right

The frescoes  depict:

  1. twelve scenes from the life of St Francis, which are individually illustrated in the Web Gallery of Art, on the walls and in the lunettes above; 

  2. St Francis in Glory with SS Louis of Toulouse, Rose of Viterbo, Catherine of Siena and Antony of Padua, in the vaults;

  3. SS Clare of Montefalco, Elzear (a Franciscan tertiary who died in 1323 and was canonised in 1369) , Fortunatus, Agnes of Assisi, Louis and Severus surround the window;

  4. St Francis displaying the stigmata, adored by twelve of his early followers, in the tondi under the entrance arch; and

  5. 23 “preservers of the faith” in tondi in the lowest order, above the choir stalls.

Fr Jacopo is depicted in two scenes: St Francis preaching to the birds; and St Francis blessing Montefalco (illustrated here).  He almost certainly decided the iconography of the scenes from the life of St Francis, which are chosen to identify him as “alter Christus” (the other Christ) and identified by inscriptions. 

The cycle is designed to be read from the bottom, although the scenes are not arranged in strictly chronological order.  The angel who stigmatised St Francis is depicted above the window, at the centre of the composition, while St Francis kneels among the rocks of La Verna in the lunette to the right. 

A scene of the conversion of St Francis was lost when the window was enlarged, but its inscription survives.

Frescoes in the Cappella di San Girolamo (ca. 1452)

The dedication of this chapel (the 1st chapel on the right) probably reflects the devotion of Fr Jacopo who belonged to the newly-formed Confraternita di San Girolamo, Perugia.  He must have commissioned the decoration of this chapel as soon as the decoration of the apse was complete.  The left wall of the chapel was removed [when?] and the frescoes on it consequently lost.

These works include:

  1. a frescoed polyptych of the Madonna and Child with SS Antony of Padua and Jerome on the left and SS John the Baptist and Louis of Toulouse on the right, which is signed and dated on the fictive frame (illustrated here);
  2. a Crucifixion with SS Dominic and St Francis on the left and SS Romuald Sylvester on the right and angels collecting the blood of Christ (above);

  3. scenes from the life of St Jerome, which flank the fictive polyptych and extend across the right wall;

  4. the Evangelists (in the vaults);

  5. Christ blessing with angels, under the entrance arch;

  6. SS Sebastian and Bernardino of Siena, on the right entrance pilaster; and

  7. St Catherine of Alexandria, on the left entrance pilaster.

Frescoes attributed to Jacopo di Vinciolo

Frescoes in two of the chapels of San Francesco are attributed to Jacopo di Vinciolo of Spoleto:

Frescoes of the Cappella di San Bernardino (1461)

These frescoes in the 2nd chapel on the right include:
  1. on the back wall

  2. a figure of St Bernardino (who had been canonised in 1450) in a fictive tabernacle;

  3. scenes from his life, to the sides; and

  4. a (damaged) Crucifixion, above and

  5. St Jerome, the only surviving fresco in the vaults. 

The unusual scene at the left left depicts an apparition in which Pope Celestine V (died 1296) appeared to San Bernardino in 1444, foretelling his imminent death.  This work is dated by inscription.

Frescoes of the niche of St Antony of Padua (ca. 1461)

These frescoes in the niche on the left wall include:
  1. St Antony of Padua in a fictive tabernacle;

  2. scenes from his life, to the sides; and

  3. a figure of the Crucified Christ with the Virgin and St John the Evangelist, above.

Frescoed altarpiece (1503)

This fresco on the counter-façade is framed by fictive architecture so that it appears to be in a large aedicule over an altar (now removed).  This is almost certainly the work for which Brother Francesco Augusti, the Guardian of San Francesco, paid  Perugino in 1503.  The main scene of the Nativity is based on a fresco of this subject by Perugino in the Collegio del Cambio, Perugia.  God the Father is in the fictive lunette, with figures of the Annunciation in the spandrels above.

Madonna del Soccorso (1510)

This altarpiece, which is now in the Cappella di Sant’ Antonio Abate (see above), was recorded in San Francesco in the 18th century, and was presumably always in this church.  The inscription records that Griseida di ser Bastiano commissioned it.   (Griseida commissioned the frescoes from Tiberio d' Assisi in the Cappella delle Rose at San Fortunato), and this altarpiece is also attributed to him).

The panel depicts the Madonna clubbing the Devil, who is trying to possess a child.  The kneeling donor is presumably Griseida, and the child is presumably her son.

Madonna and Child with saints (1510)

This fresco of the Madonna and Child with SS Andrew and Bonaventura is in the niche that is dedicated to Sant’ Andrea, in the left wall of the church.  An inscription records that the Augusti family commissioned it from Tiberio d' Assisi in 1510.  The two kneeling donors behind St Andrew are presumably family members.

Bontadosi Chapel (1589)

The arms of Bishop Clemente Bontadosi, who was the Franciscan Provincial Minister for Umbria in 1568-71 and Minister General of the Order in 1584-6, appear above the entrance to this chapel on the left.  He commissioned its construction, probably to a design by to the Perugian architect, Valentino Martelli, in 1589, on the site of an altar that had also belonged to him.  The inscription on the altar wall records the restoration of the chapel in 1753. 

The chapel contains an altarpiece and frescoes that are attributed to Ascensidonio Spacca, called il Fantino:

Immaculate Virgin with saints (1584-6)

This altarpiece, which contains a portrait of Clemente Bontadosi, was painted for an earlier altar before the chapel was built.  It depicts the Virgin with the attributes that allude to her Immacualte Conception, together with SS Francis and Antony of Padua.

Frescoes (1589)

The damaged frescoes on the walls of the chapel depict:
  1. SS Bonaventure and Clare, to the sides of the entrance; and

  2. scenes from the life of the Virgin:

  3. her presentation at the Temple (on the left), with the adoration of the Magi below; and

  4. the Annunciation (on the right, illustrated here), with the adoration of the shepherds below.

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