Key to Umbria: Narni

San Francesco: Eroli Chapel (ca. 1460)

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This chapel (now the 1st chapel on the right in San Francesco) was built between Palazzo Eroli and San Francesco, and was originally separate from both of these structures.  This was probably the newly-built chapel in Narni dedicated to St Bernardino of Siena to which Pope Pius II conceded indulgences in 1464.  Since Cardinal Berardo Eroli was close to Pius II and also a patron of the Observant Franciscans, it is probable that he was a patron of the chapel and responsible for the granting of the indulgences.  Pope Sixtus IV confirmed the indulgences during his stay in Narni in 1476, and Pope Gregory XIII granted new indulgences in 1573.

The chapel belonged to the Confraternita di San Bernardino da Siena, which was formed at San Francesco in 1458.  However, the confraternity abandoned it in 1773 because of its poor state of repair. 

A marble inscription on the right wall records that Paolo Eroli bought the oratory in 1823 and annexed it to the adjacent Palazzo Eroli (to the right of the chapel in the photograph above).   It also records that Silvio and Pietro, the sons of Paolo Eroli, gave custody of the chapel to the Confraternita della Misericordia in 1868, at which point it was re-opened for cult purposes.  The entrance from San Francesco was opened soon after.

A matching inscription on the opposite wall commemorates Paolo’s son, Pietro, who died in 1890.

The date 1942 on the architrave of the door on the right of the altar wall, which led to Palazzo Eroli, probably relates to the point at which it was closed.

Frescoes (ca. 1470)

Cardinal Berardo Eroli probably commissioned the important fresco cycle that covers the walls of the chapel.  The signature of the artist, Pierantonio Mezzastris was identified on the steps in the fresco of the dream of Pope Innocent III in the early 20th century, but it is no longer visible.  


The cycle comprises

  1. six scenes from the life of St Francis:

  2. St Francis liberates Arezzo from devils;

  3. the dream of Pope Innocent III;

  4. Pope Innocent III approves the Franciscan Rule;

  5. meeting of SS Francis and Dominic; and

  6. two miracles of St Francis; and

  1. two scenes from the life of St Bernardino of Siena, to whom the chapel was dedicated:

  2. St Bernardino before the Bishop of Siena (the future Pope Eugenius IV); and

  3. St Bernardino brings a woman back to life.

[These frescoes seem to have been inspired by similar frescoes in San Francesco, Montefalco by Benozzo Gozzoli (scenes from the life of St Francis) and Jacopo Vincioli (scenes from the life of St Bernardino).]

Art from the Chapel

St Bernardino of Siena (ca. 1462-3)

This polychromed wooden statue, which is now in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, is inscribed at the base:


(the work of Lorenzo di Pietro, painter from Siena). 

The statue is thus by Lorenzi di Pietro, il Vecchietta.  Its existence in this chapel was documented in a recently discovered bull (1464) in which Pope Pius II granted indulgences to those visiting the chapel, which was at that time dedicated to St Bernardino of Siena.  It is likely that Cardinal Berardo Eroli  secured the indulgences and commissioned the statue. 

The statue was documented again in this chapel in 1659, when it was surrounded by now-lost figures (either painted or sculpted) of SS Louis of Toulouse and Antony of Padua.  It was documented in the chapel in 1747,and was subsequently moved to San Giuseppe.  It was documented there in 1872 and 1896.  It entered the museum in Florence in 1910.

The statue depicts St Bernardino holding a panel with the monogram IHS.  He stands on a wreath of angels who are presumably carrying him to Heaven after his death in 1444.

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