Key to Umbria: Spello

This small church (at the left in this illustration), which is in the grounds of Villa Fidelia, on part of the site of what was an important Roman Sanctuary below the walls of Spello.

  1. The present church was built on the site of an older church (11th century ?). 

  2. Its foundations seem to date to the 4th century AD, and were probably those of the Templum Flaviae Gentis (Temple of Constantine’s Flavian dynasty), the dedication of which was permitted by the celebrated Rescript of Constantine (ca. 335 AD). 

Medieval Church

A structure that was probably built here the 11th century could have been the documented Osepdale di San Marco, which belonged to the Camaldolese Order.   The local historian, Fausto Gentile Donnola, writing in ca. 1620, recorded an annual procession to the church that was held on 25th April, the feast of St Mark.  Fausto Donnola added that the relics of St Fidelis had been stolen from the church at an unspecified time and taken to Recanati, but that the church remained a cult site to which parents still took sick children in the hope of a cure.

A church that was documented in 1406 as “ecclesiam S. Felicis” stood on a crossroads in this vicinity.  This was probably on the site of the tabernacle that houses the Maestà di San Felice, which is at the extreme right in the photograph above and described below.  However, Taddeo Donnola, the brother of Fausto and Prior of San Lorenzo, argued that San Fedele was actually the church in question, and that “Fedele” was a corruption of “Felice”.  He published a monograph in 1620 entitled: “De loco martyrii sanctii Felicis episcopi spellatensis”  (About the Place of Martyrdom of St Felix, Bishop of Spello), in which he identified San Fedele as the place of martyrdom of St Felix, and he placed an inscription (1644) on the facade of the church to that effect. 

Taddeo Donnola was also probably responsible for the commissioning the altarpiece (1637) depicting the martyrdom of St Felix  for San Lorenzo.  In this altarpiece, the martyrdom takes place in front of  a huge statue of Venus, which is a reference to the fact that the remains of a Roman temple dedicated to Venus had been found during the construction of Villa Fidelia in ca. 1600.

Maestà di San Felice (16th century)

This fresco is in the tabernacle at the junction opposite Villa Fidelia.  As mentioned above, this was probably the site of an ancient church of San Felice.

The damaged fresco depicts the Madonna and Child enthroned with SS Roch and Sebastian.

18th Century Church

Teresa Pamphili Grillo, who bought  the villa complex here (later Villa Fidelia) in ca. 1736, probably partially rebuilt San Fedele as a private chapel.  There seems to have been  large cemetery opposite that belonged in the 18th century to the Compagnia della Morte.

Decio Costanzi commissioned Cesare Bazzani to restore the facade and to incorporate it into a new perimeter wall of the villa in ca. 193o.

The inscription mentioned above, which claims this as the place of the martyrdom of St Felix, can be seen to the left on the facade.


The decoration behind the altar, which includes an image of Christ Pantocrater, probably dates to the restoration of 1931. 

Fresco (15th century)

This fresco of a bishop saint on the right wall, which survives from the earlier structure, probably depicts St Fidelis......

... although the later graffiti claims him as St Felix.

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San Fedele (18th century)

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