Key to Umbria: Spoleto

Nunneries on Colle Ciciano  (13th century)

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Two nunneries on the lower slopes of Colle Ciciano have their own pages:

  1. San Ponziano probably became a Benedictine nunnery in the 11th century and is now the home of a community of Lateran Canonesses.

  2. San Concordio (now San Salvatore) served as a nunnery in three separate periods:

  3. A community of nuns who do not seem to have belonged to a particular order was documented here in 1064 and suppressed in 1235.

  4. A community of women who had agreed with their husbands to lead separate religious lives settled here in 1285 and was suppressed in 1424. 

  5. A community of Servite tertiaries lived here in the period In 1456-9.

Santa Maria inter Angelos (1232)

A community of women on this site at the summit of Colle Ciciano was first documented in 1232, when Pope Gregory IX incorporated them into a new order that became known as the Poor Ladies of San Damiano (later the Poor Clares or second Order of St Francis).  He initially endowed the community from his own resources.  In 1236, he suppressed the Abbazia di San Silvestro, outside Spello and gave some of its possessions to the nuns of Santa Maria inter Angelos.  Pope Boniface IX ceded the church of San Gregorio Minore to them in 1404, and they moved there two years later. 

[The nunnery is known locally as “Sant’ Elisabetta” and it might be that some of the nuns from the nearby Eremo di Sant’ Elisabetta moved here in 1447, when their hermitage was closed]. 

The complex passed to the Italian state in 1871 and was sold to Francesco Cianni of Spoleto.  After his death in 1908, it passed to his son, Guglielmo.

Art from Santa Maria inter Angelos

Frescoes (ca. 1300) 

These frescoes, which are the autograph works the Maestro delle Palazze, were  detached from the church in 1921 and sold.  The only one that remained in Spoleto, which depicts the torment of Christ, is now in Room 9 of the Museo del Ducato di Spoleto.

The museum exhibits sinopie of three other frescoes from the cycle, which depict:

  1. the Last Supper, with an inset of the Agony in the Garden at the lower right, the original of which is now in the Worcester Art Museum, Worcester,  Massachusetts;

  1. Christ in Judgement and the Madonna della Misericordia, the original of which is in the Raymond Pitcairn Collection, Glencairn Museum, Pennsylvania (see below); and

  1. the Crucifixion (now apparently in the Worcester Art Museum).

The database of the Federico Zeri Foundation contains images of some of the original frescoes in the cycle.  These include the scenes above, except for the Last Supper, and:

  1. an Annunciation (now in the Raymond Pitcairn Collection, Glencairn Museum, Pennsylvania - hit the buttons “Collections” and then “Medieval” and search on “Annunciation” to see the image);

  2. a female saint and a soldier (now apparently in the Worcester Art Museum);  and

  3. a scene of the Nativity, a fragment of which is now in the Museum of Fine Arts , Boston, Massachusetts.

Santa Maria Maddalena “di Capatis” (1295)

A group of female penitents built an oratory on this site at the foot of Colle Ciciano (outside Porta Ponzianino). In 1295, Bishop Francesco conceded indulgences to those visiting it  on specified feast days.  Bishop Nicolò imposed the Augustinian Rule on the women in 1300.  The nunnery closed and the nuns moved to San Ponziano in 1389.

This oratory subsequently passed to the Confraternita della Maddalena, which was suppressed in 1860. 

Art from Santa Maria Maddalena

St Mary Magdalene (17th century) 

This altarpiece is attributed to the workshop of Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, il Guercino.  It belonged to Alfonso Palettoni, who was Governor of Cento (Guercino's native town) in 1636-7, and his heirs gave it to the Confraternita di Santa Maria Maddalena.  When the confraternity was suppressed, its members moved the precious altarpiece to the Duomo and hid it behind another in an attempt to avoid its confiscation.  Unfortunately, it was discovered and duly confiscated.  It is now in the Sala dei Duchi of Palazzo Comunale


Other Nunneries

There were a number of other nunneries on Colle Ciciano of which no trace now survives:

Santa Caterina de Collefloreto (1278)

In 1278, Bishop Rolando approved the establishment of this nunnery under the Augustinian rule.  In 1281, he sent from Orvieto (where he was attending the court of Pope Martin IV) a consecrated foundation stone for a new church dedicated to SS Croce e Caterina.  He also granted indulgences for those visiting the church on the titular feast days.     Pope Honorius IV took the nunnery into papal protection in 1287, and Bishop Gerardo granted further privileges in 1293 and 1295.  Cardinal Napoleone Orsini took the nunnery under his protection in 1320.

The resources of the nunnery outstripped the number of women who wished to join it, and it was granted permission to restrict the number on nuns to 20 in 1335 and to 15 in 1348.  The nuns from Santa Chiara di Colpetrosa moved here in 1371 when their nunnery on Monteluco was closed.  Santa Caterina finally closed in 1412, when the remaining eight nuns moved to San Ponziano.

Sant’ Illuminata de Corvellone (1291)

In 1291, Bishop Gerardo authorised a number of women here to form a nunnery under the Augustinian Rule.  A year later, it acquired goods “in voc. Corvellone”.  The nunnery was closed in 1446 and the nuns moved to Sant’ Elisabetta on Monteluco.

Santa Margherita “iuxta Spoletium” (13th century)

This nunnery was first documented in a will dated 1236.  In 1264, Pope Urban IV took the nunnery into papal protection and imposed the Augustinian Rule.  In 1296, the Commune gave the nuns the privilege of cutting wood on Monteluco.  The nunnery was closed in 1410 and the nuns moved to Santa Maria della Stella.

Return to Monuments of Spoleto.

Return to Walk III (Santa Maria Maddalena) or Walk IV (Santa Maria inter Angelos).