Key to Umbria: Spoleto

SS Ansano e Antonio da Padova

(12th century)

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The first church was built here in the 9th century, on the foundations of a Roman temple.  It had the opposite orientation  to the present church: its facade was on the edge of the space that had formed the Roman forum.  Traces of the semicircular apse of this earlier church were discovered under the present facade in 1955-7.

The present church was built in the 12th century, when the street level had risen considerably.  This new church extended south beyond its original foundations into what had been the forum, obliterating its original facade and that of the temple.   The space under the new apse of the church became the crypt of Sant' Isacco.

A copy (ca. 1580) of a subsequently lost inscription suggests that Pope Alexander III consecrated the new church in 1164.  [He was from Siena and this probably explains its original dedication to St Ansanus, a patron saint of that city.]  However, the church also had a second dedication to St Isaac: a diploma (1185) from Pope Urban III confirming the possessions of the Benedictine monastery of San Giuliano includes the monastery of St Isaac "in civitate Spoletana".  This is the earliest reference to a monastery on the site. 

The church and adjoining monastery passed from the Benedictines to the Lateran Canons in 1502.  The canons also acquired San Giuliano at this point, but they preferred to live at Sant' Ansano.  They translated the relics of St Isaac from San Giuliano to the crypt of Sant' Ansano at that time.  By  the 17th century, the church had become known as  Sant' Ansano while the crypt was known as Sant' Isacco.

The church was remodelled in the neo-Classical style in the late 18th century. 

  1. The complex remained in the possession of the Lateran canons until 1826.

  2. It then passed to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, a society of missionary priests that had been founded by St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori in 1732.

  3. It housed the Benedictine nuns from Sant’ Agata from 1855 until this community was suppressed in 1868.  (The nuns were able to regroup at St Alò in 1885). 

  4. It finally passed to the Franciscans of SS Simone e Giuda in 1896 and they added the dedication to St Antony of Padua

The Franciscans commissioned the relief (20th century) above the entrance to the church.  It depicts the Madonna and Child with the Blessed Simon of Collazone (see below) and St Antony of Padua and is by Antonio Cimbelli.


As noted above, the nave of the church stands on foundations provided by the Roman temple.  A flight of steps on the left, which leads down to the crypt of Sant' Isacco, incorporates part of the entrance steps of the temple.  The area of the church beyond this point was built above the crypt, in what had been the Roman forum. 

The floor of the nave was re-paved in 1971.  Metal grills installed at this time reveal fragments of the earlier pavements of the first church and the Roman temple, as well as traces of the columns from the temple facade.

In 2000, the relics of the Blessed Simon of Collazzone were translated from the Duomo to Sant’ Ansano.  They were placed in the sarcophagus (19th century) that Pope Pius IX had donated for the relics of St Isaac.   This sarcophagus is now under the high altar.

Madonna and Child with angels (ca. 1520)

This fresco fragment now forms the altarpiece on the first altar on the right.   The chapel was ceded in 1506 to the Università dei Lombardi (a confraternity of Lombard artisans working in in Spoleto), and they presumably commissioned what was originally a much larger work. 

The confraternity commissioned an artist called Antonio di Brunotto to decorate the chapel in 1520.  However, they retained the right to appoint another artist if he did not complete the work in the stipulated time.  In fact, the work is usually attributed to Giovanni di Pietro, lo Spagna and was documented with this attribution as early as 1581. 

The fresco was covered by a new altarpiece during the re-modeling of the church and re-discovered by Giuseppe Sordini in 1907.  The surviving fragment depicts the Madonna and Child on a cloud, in front of a cloth of honour held by angels.  Fragments of the figures of St John the Baptist (holding a cross) and St Ambrose (holding the whip with which he defied heretics) can be seen to the sides.  There is also a fragment of what was probably an image of God the Father above.

Martyrdom of St Ansanus (17th century)

This altarpiece is on the high altar.


The cloister (16th century) of the monastery can be seen to the right of the church. 

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