Key to Umbria: Spello

According to tradition, this was the site of the first parish church of Spello, perhaps as early as the 6th century.  There are at least two possibilities for the identity of the saint to whom it was dedicated, whose feast was celebrated in Spello on 3rd November:

  1. St Severinus of Tivoli, who was later adopted as one of the patron saints of Spello and whose feast day in the Roman Martyrology is 1st November; or

  2. St Severinus of Noricum, whose relics were translated from Noricum via Montefeltro to Naples in 488.  Churches dedicated to him at Foligno, Narni and Otricoli seem to reflect the journey of the relics.  Although an orthodox Catholic, he was venerated by Odoacer, and he therefore came to represent a bridge between the faiths.  Pope Gregory I dedicated what had been an Arian church on Via Merulana, Rome to him, and requested relics for it from Naples.   His feast day is 8th January, like that of St Severinus of San Severino in the Marches.

San Severino was documented in 1178, in a bull of Pope Alexander III, as a dependency of the Abbazia di San Silvestro.  An inscription in the rose window of the original façade (now at the back of the church - see below) records that it was built in 1180, when Rubeno was the “CONREGENTE”: it is not clear whether this was a civic or a clerical position.   This is probably the person depicted in a fresco in San Ventura.  The Emperor Henry VI separated San Severino from San Silvestro and took it under his protection in 1187.

San Severino was the only church in Spello to have a baptismal font until the 16th century.  However, it subsequently fell into disuse and then became the private chapel of the Venanzi family.

The Capuchins, who had settled at Sant’ Onofrio (some 2 km north east of Spello) in 1554, moved here in 1622 and built the adjoining convent.  Pope Gregory XV confirmed this transfer in 1623. 

An inscription on the facade of the church records that Cardinal Francesco Angelo Rapaccioli, Bishop of Terni  re-consecrated the church in 1647. 

The church fell once more into disrepair when the Capuchin community was suppressed in 1866, but the friars were able to return in 1897.  The church was restored in 1989-93.


The church was originally in the form of a Latin cross.  It was re-oriented through 180° when the convent was built.  The facade of the original church, which survives at the back of the building, is is formed of red and white stone, with a single and very distinctive rose window.  The original portal below has been changed into a window.


As noted above, was re-oriented through 180° when the convent was built.  The interior was then converted into a Greek cross by the insertion of a partition wall across the nave that separated the friars’ choir from the “public” church. 

Panels on the High Altar (18th century)

The main panel on the high altar of the “public” church, which is by Giacinto Boccanera, depicts the Trinity with saints.  The smaller panels to the side of it, which are attributed to Giacinto Boccanera, depict:

  1. the birth of Christ, on the left; and

  2. the birth of St John the Baptist.

Works attributed to Durante Alberti

The diary of Durante Alberti records three payments in 1595 from the Capuchin friars of Sant’ Onofrio for an altarpiece.  They presumably brought it with them when they moved to San Severino in 1622.  In fact,  In fact, two panels in the church are attributed to Durante Alberti:

  1. the panel in the left transept, which depicts the Madonna and Child in glory with SS Francis and Onuphrius and which is probably the work executed in 1595; and

  2. the panel on the altar in the friars’ choir, which depicts the Madonna and Child with SS Bonaventure and Antony of Padua.

Art from the Church

Tabernacle (16th century)

This tabernacle for holy oil from San Severino is now mounted above the font on the 1st pillar on the right of San Lorenzo.

Return to Monuments of Spello. 

Return to the home page on Walk I.

San Severino (1180)

Umbria:  Home   Cities    History    Art    Hagiography    Contact 


Spello:  Home    History    Saints    Art    Walks    Monuments    Museums