Key to Umbria: Montefalco

Sant' Agostino (1279-85)

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The Blessed Angelus of Foligno founded the Augustinian convent at Montefalco in 1257, only a year after the “grande unione” had given rise to the order.  He acquired what had previously been the ancient parish church of Santa Maria del Popolo (also known as Santa Maria de Plateola), which stood on the opposite side of the Corso from the present church, inside Portone di Santa Maria (towards the viewer in the photograph above).  This promoted the settlement of a new suburb that became known as Borgo del Castellare.

In 1275, the Commune gave the Augustinians the nearby church of San Giovanni Battista, which they demolished to build the present church.  

The Augustinians abandoned the church and convent in 1978.  The church, which now serves a parish, has been recently restored.


This illustration, which is a detail of a fresco (1452) by Benozzo Gozzoli in the apse of San Francesco, shows Sant’ Agostino before the campanile was lowered in 1489.

The façade has a small rose window and a fine Gothic portal (14th century)

The church originally took the form of a single nave, but a low aisle was built on the right in 1327.  This date is recorded in the inscription over the new door that opened into it, which bears the arms of the Church and of Jean d’ Amiel, the Rector of the Duchy of Spoleto.

The cloister to the left of the church was rebuilt in 1466.



The church preserves:

  1. the relics of the Blessed Illuminata and Chiarella, in the 2nd bay on the right; and

  1. the relics of a pilgrim known as “Beato Pellegrino”, in the 4th bay on the right.

Blessed Illuminata was a colleague of St Clare of Montefalco, and gave important evidence in the process for her canonisation.  She died in 1310 and was buried in Sant’ Agostino.  Blessed  Chiarella joined the same nunnery as a child, just months before St Clare of Montefalco died (in 1291).  She subsequently founded an Augustinian nunnery in her native town of Giano dell’ Umbria, where she died in 1345.  When this nunnery closed, her relics were moved to join those of Blessed Illuminata. 

Tradition has it that an unknown pilgrim died while venerating these relics in the 14th century.  The Sacristan found his body with its head pressed forwards against the wall.  He duly buried it, but he found it again, in its original position, when he returned to the church on the following day.  The body of the pilgrim was therefore kept in the church, so that it could continue to venerate the relics of the two holy nuns.  It remains essentially in tact and in its original position in its glass-sided case.

The relics of the Blessed Illuminata and Chiarella (and presumably those of the pilgrim) were originally in the Cappella della Beata Chiarella, to the left of the presbytery).  This chapel was demolished in 1714.  They were presumably moved to their present locations at that time.  The relics of the Blessed Illuminata and Chiarella were placed in the current reliquary in 1882.

Coronation of the Virgin (14th century)

This fresco on the left wall is attributed to a follower of Ambrogio Lorenzetti.  The coronation takes place in heaven, as angels blow trumpets to herald the Day of Judgement, and Eve lies below the throne.  The kneeling donors are depicted on the lower part of the fictive frame.

Frescoes (14th century)

These frescoes on the arch of the presbytery depict, from the left:

  1. the Annunciation;

  2. the Presentation of the Virgin;

  3. the Lamb of God; and

  4. the Nativity

This damaged fresco of the Crucifixion, high up on the left wall, is broadly contemporary with those above, and might be by the same workshop.

Frescoes (early 15th century)

These frescoes, which are attributed to Giovanni di Corraduccio Mazzaforte, depict:

  1. the Madonna della Misericordia (on the counter-facade, to the right of the portal); and

  1. a fragment of a Nativity (in the nearby niche on the left wall).

Frescoes (15th century)

These frescoes on the left wall include:

  1. the upper part of the Madonna and Child enthroned with St Clare of Montefalco; and

  1. the upper part of the Madonna and Child enthroned and St Catherine of Alexandria.

Madonna del Latte (15th century)

This fresco is on the counter-facade, to the left of the portal.

Frescoes (15th century)

These frescoes in the Cappella del Sacramento (5th on the right) are attributed to Jacopo di Vinciolo.  They depict:
  1. the Crucifixion with saints;

  2. the Madonna and Child with SS Severus, Paul, Peter and Fortunatus in a fictive polyptych;

  3. stories from the lives of SS Fortunatus and Severus (of which only one survives); and

  4. the doctors of the church (in the vaults).

Madonna and Child with saints (15th century)

This fresco in a niche in the left wall is attributed to Ugolino di Gisberto. It depicts the Madonna and Child with St Augustine and the Blessed Angelo of Foligno (the founder of the convent), who holds a model of Montefalco seen from Porta Sant’ Agostino.

Frescoes in the Cappella di San Nicolò da Tolentino

The fresco fragments in this chapel (to the right of the apse), which belonged to the Confraternita di San Nicolò da Tolentino, include:

  1. part of a fresco (15th century) of the Madonna and Child with angel that is attributed to Pierantonio Mezzastris.; and

  2. fragments (early 16th century) attributed to Francesco Melanzio, which depict:

  3. the face of the Virgin; and

  4. the Madonna and Child.

Other works from this chapel by or attributed to Francesco Melanzio are now in the Pinacoteca (see below).

Madonna della Cintola (1522)

This fresco in a niche in the left wall, which depicts the Madonna (holding her girdle) and Child with SS James and John the Evangelist, is attributed to Giovanni Battista Caporali.  The inscription records that Gregoria de Malapelle commissioned the chapel (and presumably the fresco) in 1522.  The throne refers directly to that in the San Girolamo Altarpiece (ca. 1510) from San Girolamo, Perugia, which is similarly attributed to him.

Painted niche (1529)

The Commune commissioned this niche in 1529, as a votive offering after the cessation of an epidemic.  The fresco of God the Father and angels holding a cloth of honour is attributed to Bernardino MezzastrisThe niche was intended to house a statue of the Archangel Raphael; it now contains a polychrome wooden statue (15th century) of St Nicholas of Tolentino.

Art from the Church

Monument to a Knight (late 14th century)

This pink marble monument, which came from the pavement of Sant’ Agostino, is now in the Museo Civico.  The arms to the sides of the carved head of the deceased belonged to a Knight of Malta.

Crucifix (ca. 1461)

This processional crucifix, which is attributed to Jacopo di Vinciolo, is now in the Pinacoteca.

Coronation of the Virgin with saints (15th century)

This panel from Sant’ Agostino, which is attributed to Cristoforo di Jacopo da Foligno, is now in the Pinacoteca.  It depicts the coronation of the Virgin, with SS John the Baptist and Severus.

Works by Francesco Melanzio

A surviving document (1514) records the commission of frescoes from Francesco Melanzio for the Cappella della Beata Chiarella (to the left of the presbytery), which was demolished in 1714. 

Francesco Melanzio also worked in the the 6th chapel on the right, which belonged to the Confraternita di San Nicolò da Tolentino.  As noted above, surviving fresco fragments in this chapel is attributed to him.  Two other works from this chapel are now in the Pinacoteca:

Madonna and Child with saints (1487)

A surviving document records that Pietro Paolo di Giovanni Marino commissioned this panel from “Francesco pentore” in 1486.  The inscription along the top of the frame again records Pietro Paolo di Giovanni Marino, and gives the date 1487, while the inscription at the bottom identifies the artist as Francesco Melanzio.   This is his earliest known work.

Pietro Paolo di Giovanni Marino was the prior of the Confraternita di San Nicolò da Tolentino, and he commissioned this panel for the confraternity’s chapel.  The document in which he commissioned the work prescribes that it should depict the Madonna and Child with SS Sebastian, Peter, Paul and Domenic, with other saints, including St Nicholas of Tolentino in the predella.  If the predella was ever painted, it was subsequently lost, while St Nicholas of Tolentino replaced St Domenic in the panel itself.  

Madonna del Soccorso (1504)

This panel (originally a processional banner), which came from the chapel of the Confraternita di San Nicolò da Tolentino, is attributed to Francesco Melanzio.  Members of the confraternity are depicted among the kneeling figures to the left, which suggests that they commissioned the work.  A lost inscription gave the date.

The surviving inscription along the top of the frame identifies the subject as the Madonna del Soccorso (of Succour).  As is usual in this iconography, the Virgin clubs a devil that tries to possess a child.   A female supplicant (presumably the mother) kneels under the Virgin's protective cloak.

St Agnes (17th century)

This altarpiece on the counter-facade, to the left of the portal is from San Clemente.

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