Key to Umbria: Perugia

Santa Maria di Monteluce: Church

Umbria:  Home   Cities    History    Art    Hagiography    Contact

Perugia:  Home    History   Art    Saints    Walks    Monuments    Museums

Santa Maria di Monteluce:  Main page   Church   Nuns’ choir   Art from church


The left wall of the church (in Via del Giochetto), which survives from the original construction, is buttressed by a series of integral brick pillars.  The truncated campanile (13th century) to the right, which still contains a bell that Pope Gregory IX gave to the nuns in 1235. 

The façade of pink and white marble probably dates to the restoration of 1449-51.  It is characterised by its distinctive rose window, which is made up of seven circles.  The double portals (ca. 1600) has busts in the lunettes of:

  1. the Virgin and St Clare (on the left) ;and

  2. SS Francis and Bernardino (on the right).

The Renaissance portico to the right used to open into the chapel at the base of the campanile.  It contains a copy (1983) of part of a fresco (14th century) of the Coronation of the Virgin that survives in the nuns‘ choir.


The interior is in the form of a single nave with a deep tribune that houses an organ on each side.  The high altar was moved forward in 1449 and a wall built behind it in order to enclose the nuns‘ choir

  1. The small door on the left of the altar wall leads to this choir, which the nuns called “chiesa nostra dentro" (our church within).  

  2. The nave of what was they called the “chiesa de fuore” (the outer church, which was used for public services), was vaulted in 1470-2.

The interior was the subject of remodelling in the Baroque style in 1602-7, during which the walls were covered with a series of important Mannerist frescoes that are sometimes attributed to Matteuccio Salvucci.  These include: 


  St Romuald defeating heresy     Resurrection of Christ              St Francis before the Sultan

       1st chapel on the left                     Counter-facade                         2nd chapel on the right


The original high altar (14th century) still survives at the entrance to the tribune.  As noted above, this altar was moved forward in 1449-51 and a wall was built behind it to enclose a choir for the newly reformed nuns. 

An important altarpiece of the Coronation of the Virgin was commissioned from Raphael in 1503 and finally installed in 1525 (see the page on works of art removed from the church).  This altarpiece was dismantled in 1750 and its main panel was re-installed in the frame that still survives on the back wall of the tribune.  The altarpiece that now occupies this frame is a 19th century copy of the original.

Crucifixion with saints (late 15th century)

On 7th November 1491, the nuns made a payment of 9 florins to “Master Fiorenzo” (almost certainly Fiorenzo di Lorenzo) for “the manufacture of a crucifix” in the refectory.  The “Memoriale di Santa Maria di Monteluce” refers to the commission of a painting (presumably a fresco) for the refectory, which depicted the crucifixion with the Virgin and SS John the Evangelist, Francis and Clare.  It had been financed using money from the will of sister Eufrasia Alfani in the time that Sister Lucy of Foligno was abbess (i.e. before 20th October 1491). 

These documents almost certainly refer to the large detached fresco that is now on the back wall of the chapel under the campanile, which is attributed on stylistic grounds to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo.  The fresco, which is very damaged, depicts the Crucifixion with the Virgin and St John the Evangelist against a landscape, with SS Francis and Clare kneeling at the foot of the Cross. 

Crucifixion (late 15th century) 


The “Memoriale di Santa Maria di Monteluce” records that Sister Battista Alfani used money donated by her brother, Giovanbattista di Alfono Alfani and her nephew Alfano di Diamante Alfani to commission a large crucifix in ca. 1499, and that this replaced a smaller one.  Laura Teza (referenced below) suggests that:

  1. the smaller crucifix is the one that the nuns took to Sant’ Erminio, which is attributed to Giovanni Tedesco (see the page on works of art removed from the church); and

  2. the larger one is the crucifix that is now to the left of the tribune, which she attributes to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo.

She also suggests that the latter is the crucifix that was recorded in 1784 in the 3rd chapel on the right, in front of the fresco (early 17th century) the grieving Virgin and St John the Evangelist.   (These figures now flank an incongruously small wooden cross).  

Tabernacle (1487)

This Renaissance tabernacle is to the right of the tribune.   The “Memoriale di Santa Maria di Monteluce” records that the commission from by Francesco di Simone Ferrucci da Fiesole was financed from the bequest of the mother of Eufrasia and Battista Alfani, and that the sculptor travelled to Perugia to install it on the Altare del Sacramento.  When the money from the bequest proved to be inadequate, the nuns’ brothers made up the difference.  The arms of the Alfani family can be seen in the predella.

The tabernacle is crafted in of polychrome marble.  The lunette contains a figure of the Risen Christ.  Below, the baby Christ stands in a chalice held by angels, while two other angels flank the door to the receptacle in which the consecrated Host was kept.

Madonna and Child with St Lucy (14th century)

This fragment of a frescoed triptych from the earlier decoration of the church survives at the centre of the back wall of the 1st chapel on the left.  St Lucy carries her eyes in a bowl and a palm of martyrdom.

Read more:

J. Wood, “Women, Art and Spirituality: The Poor Clares of Early Modern Italy”, (1996), Cambridge

L. Teza, “Indagini sulla Statuaria Lignea a Perugia nella Seconda Metà del Quattrocento”, in “L’arte del Legno in Italia: Esperienze e Indagini a Confronto, Atti del Convegno, Pergola 9-12 Maggio 2002”, (2005) Perugia 2005, pp 65-90 (for the tabernacle by Francesco di Simone Ferrucci da Fiesole and two works attributed to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo: the sculpted crucifix to the left of the tribune; and the fresco of the crucifixion in the chapel under the campanile)

Santa Maria di Monteluce:  Main page   Church   Nuns’ choir   Art from church.

Return to Nunneries of Perugia.

Return to Monuments of Perugia.