Key to Umbria: Orvieto

San Bernardino (1657-66) 

Umbria:  Home   Cities    History    Art    Hagiography    Contact 


Orvieto:  Home    History    Art    Saints    Walks    Monuments    Museums

San Bernardino, with Palazzo Crispo Marsciano to the left

and the entrance to the nunnery to the right

In 1451, the Commune gave permission for a community of female Franciscan tertiaries to build a nunnery here, which they dedicated to the recently canonised St Bernardino of Siena.  Two years later, the Commune voted to provide a subsidy for the construction of the complex. 

The lady who founded the community had apparently been married to one of the Conti di Marsciano.  The sisters of her new community were introduced to the appropriate form of life by nuns from the Monastero delle Lucrezie, Todi.  This community was affiliated to Sant’ Anna, Foligno and formed part of the congregation formed by Blessed Angelina of Montegiove, who was also related to the Conti di Marsciano. 

This community was suppressed in 1544 and the complex passed to a community Poor Clares.  They incorporated the palaces to either side into their convent at various times:

  1. They acquired the property to the right from the bishop at some point, but sold it in 1581 to Vicenzo Buzi.  He demolished it to make way for Palazzo Buzi.

  2. They bought Palazzo Crispo Marsciano to the left from the the Conti di di Marsciano in 1618.  This palace subsequently passed to the Commune.

The nuns built a new church here in 1657-66 to a design by Cosimo Poli, the nephew of Bishop Cardinal Fausto Poli


Bishop Giuseppe dei Conti di Marsciano, who consecrated the church in 1739, is commemorated in two inscriptions [on the counter-facade].


The church, which is one of the few Baroque buildings in Orvieto, has a distinctive elliptical plan.  The nuns’ choir is at the rear, above the organ.   An inscription records that Sisters Francesca Camilla and Anna Ippolita di Montemarte (who were related to the Conti di Marsciano) donated this organ in 1709.

Madonna and Child with saints (mid 16th century)

The altarpiece on the high altar , which is attributed to the Perugian Sinibaldo Ibi, depicts the Madonna and Child with SS Peter, Paul, Francis and Bernardino. 

The altarpiece must already have been about 100 years old when it was placed on the high altar of the nuns’ new church. If they had originally commissioned it, this would have occurred soon after they acquired the complex.  However, the figures of SS Francis and Bernardino seem to have been painted after the completion of the original altarpiece, and it may be that they acquired it from a non-Franciscan location and adapted it to their purposes.

Water stoup (1588) 

This travertine holy water stoup, which is attributed to Ippolito Scalza, is near the entrance.   The base is inscribed with the name of Sister Agnese di Montemarte and bears the Montemarte arms and those of the Opera del Duomo.

Education of the Virgin (ca. 1650)

This panel on the 1st altar on the right is attributed to Giacinto Gimignani.  The arms of the Conti di Marsciano appear at the bottom right.  The commission might have arisen because Cardinal Fausto Poli, who was a collector of works by Giacinto Gimignani, was Bishop of Orvieto in 1645-56.  The upper part of the panel was pained at a later date, which suggests that this was not its original location.

Blessed Angelina of Montegiove (18th century ?)


These two panels in the presbytery were possibly commissioned by Bishop Giuseppe dei Conti di Marsciano, who consecrated the church in 1739 and who could claim the Blessed Angelina as an ancestor.

Return to Monuments of Orvieto.

Return to Walk I.