Key to Umbria: Orvieto

Santa Chiara (1493)  

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The church, which was first documented in 1350, seems to have belonged to the Poor Clares of San Lorenzo delle Vigne, as did the church of San Lodovico.  They took refuge here during the wars that ravaged Orvieto in the late 14th century.  In 1436, Bishop Francesco Monaldeschi moved them permanently to San Lodovico and Santa Chiara.  The church was rebuilt in 1493.

Pope Leo X gave permission for the construction of a new nunnery next to Santa Chiara, using a bequest that had been made to a community of tertiary Franciscan women.  The work was completed in 1520, when Bishop Nicolò Ridolfi called  a group of nuns from SS Cosmo e Daminao, Rome to instruct the new community on the profession of the Rule of the Second Order.  The design of the nunnery is sometimes attributed to Michele Sanmicheli.

The nuns here had a close association with those at the Chiesa del Buon Gesù from the early 17th century.   Both communities were suppressed in the Napoleonic period, and Santa Chiara never re-opened.

The church is now closed and in restoration.  Part of the nunnery now houses the Istituto Professionale di Stato per l' Industria e l' Artigianato.

Art from the Church

Profession of St Clare (1637)

This altarpiece in the private chapel of the nuns of the Chiesa del Buon Gesù came from Santa Chiara.  It was taken to Paris in the Napoleonic era, when the nunneries of Orvieto were suppressed, but subsequently returned to city.  Since Santa Chiara never re-opened, it was given to the nuns of the Chiesa del Buon Gesù. 

The altarpiece depicts St Clare receiving the habit of a nun from St Francis at the Portiuncula.   An inscription was recently discovered on it identified the artist as Giovanni Maria Colombi and gave the date as 1637.

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