Key to Umbria: Spoleto

Blessed Simon of Collazzone (24th April)

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Detail of the Madonna and Child with saints (ca. 1450)

attributed to Jacopo Vincioli

Museo del Ducato di Spoleto

Simon was born in the late 12th or early 13th century at Collazzone, near Todi.  His was a noble family: indeed, he is also known as Simone della Contessa, in honour of his mother, the Contessa Matilde, who was a friend of Beatrice, the wife of the Emperor Otto IV.

Simon gave up his privileged background at a very early age and joined the small band of followers of St Francis.  He was among the friars that Brother Elias sent to Germany in 1221. He subsequently became Provincial Minister of the Marches and then of Umbria.  The Franciscan chronicler Salimbene de Adam, who spent time with him in Marseilles in 1248, referred to him as a man “whom God made illustrious through miracles”.  He died during a visit to the friars at Sant’ Elia in 1250. 

Miracles were soon attributed to his intercession. In 1252, Pope Innocent IV, who was in Perugia, mandated Bishop Bartolomeo Accorombani  of Spoleto, Bishop Giacomo of Gubbio and the Abbot of San Pietro in Valle to conduct a canonisation process.   This process was inconclusive.  The relics of “St” Simon were nevertheless translated with great solemnity to the new church of SS Simone e Giuda in 1260.  Although the church was dedicated to the Apostles Simon and Jude, many in the congregation would have associated Simon of Collazzone with the dedication. 

Simon was formally recognised as a saint in the statutes of Spoleto from at least 1296.  He was identified by the words “Sanctus Simon” inscribed in his halo in the altarpiece (ca. 1450) of the altar that housed his relics (illustrated above).  (The original is now in Room 15 of the Museo del Ducato di Spoleto).  Despite the longevity of the cult at Spoleto, a second canonisation process in 1747 also failed.

When SS Simone e Giuda was suppressed in 1863, the relics were placed into two urns (the skull in one and the rest of the relics in the other) and taken to the Duomo.  In 2000, they were translated to Sant’ Ansano and placed in the sarcophagus (19th century) that Pope Pius IX had donated for the relics of St Isaac.  This sarcophagus is now under an altar under the crossing.