Key to Umbria: Spoleto

Congregazione della Sacra Famiglia (1888)

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                                     Chiesa della Sacra Famiglia             Istituto della Sacra Famiglia 

                                             Via Quinto Settano                         Entrance in Via Filittèria

The Blessed Peter Bonilli, who was the parish priest at what was then the church of San Michele Arcangelo, Cannaiola, near Trevi, established this female congregation in 1888, and mandated the sisters to administer two charitable institutions that he had established in his parish:

  1. an orphanage for girls; and

  2. a school for deaf, dumb and blind girls, one of the first institutions of its kind in Italy.

Bishop Elvezio Mariano Pagliari of Spoleto gave the habit to the first four sisters of the congregation.  Blessed Peter had a particular devotion to the Holy Family, which he saw as a role model for the poor families of his parish..The new congregation was dedicated to the the cult of the Holy Family, which the Blessed Peter persuaded Pope Leo XIII to approve in 1893.

Bishop Elvezio Mariano Pagliari of Spoleto persuaded the Blessed Peter to move to Spoleto in 1898, to become a canon of the Cathedral.  He also arranged for the sisters to move to the ex-Casa delle Convertite in Via delle Mura Ciclopiche (see Walk III).  He appointed the Blessed Peter as an administrator of the seminary in 1899. 

In 1900,the sisters moved to larger premises in the ex-Casa Eroli (renamed “Palazzo Buoncristiani”) in Via Filittèria (which has another entrance in Via Quinto Settano, illustrated here).  The Blessed Peter had a bedroom here and an adjacent chapel (see below).  He built a church (ca. 1900) for the sisters further along Via Quinto Settano. 

Bishop Domenico Serafini appointed the Blessed Peter as rector of the seminary in 1905.  Blessed Peter arranged for the sisters to undertake missionary work: the first overseas nunnery of what had become the Congregazione della Sacra Famiglia di Spoleto was established in Libya in 1921.

Blessed Peter became blind in 1929, but he continued to supervise the sisters’ charitable work.  He received a legacy in 1932 that allowed him to move what was then the “Istituto Nazzareno per Cieche e Sordomute” (Nazarene Institute for the Blind, Deaf and Dumb) to dedicated premises in Via Vittori (see Walk II). 

Blessed Peter died in Palazzo Buoncristiani in 1935, but the Congregation continued to grow: it now has some 60 nunneries around the world.  The sisters still maintain their base in Palazzo Buoncristiani and look after the Museo Don Pietro Bonilli  there (see below), although their nearby church is closed.   The orphanage in Via Vittori was converted into the “Pensionato Nazzareno per gli Anziani” (an old people’s home that is more usually known as the Pensionato Casa Marini) in 1986. 

The sisters also administered the Istituto Nazareno in Via Interna delle Mura (see Walk III) as a second old people’s home.  They recently converted it into a modern hostel and conference centre.  It has a lovely chapel that is always open.

Museo Don Pietro Bonilli

The entrance to the museum is in Via Quinto Settano.  The sisters prefer you to make an appointment but they will probably allow you to see the museum if you simply ring the bell.  It contains an exhibition of photographs and other memorabilia, as well as:

  1. the bedroom of the Blessed Peter, in which he died in 1935;

  1. his adjoining private chapel, which now serves as the sisters’ church; and

  1. a reliquary on its altar, which contains relics of the Blessed Peter.

Return to Monuments of Spoleto.

Return to: Walk I or Walk II (Via Vittori).