Key to Umbria: Spoleto

Early Franciscan Convents:

Sant Apollinare and Sant' Elia

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These two churches in Walk I, each of which belonged to the early Franciscans for a short period, were subsequently demolished.

This urban community was established alongside another on Monteluco, which grew up around the little church of Santa Caterina at the top of Monteluco in 1218.  This later became the Convento di San Francesco di Monteluco.

Sant’ Apollinare (11th century) 

Sant’ Apollinare is first documented in 1088, when it belonged to the Abbazia di Sassovivo.  It was the subject of a legal dispute between Bishop Benedetto and the nuns of San Ponziano in 1199, but Pope Inncocent III confirmed it as a possession of Sassovivo in 1213.   Shortly afterwards, the Benedictines seem to have made it available to the first Franciscan community in Spoleto.  These friars transferred to Sant’ Elia (see below) in ca. 1226.  It is documented as a parish church in 1610, but it had probably been so for centuries.

[When was it demolished ??]

The Ristorante Apolllinare stands of the Roman foundations upon which the church was built. 

Sant' Elia (11th century ?)

Plan of the Rocca, showing the site of Sant' Elia

The parish church here was first documented in 1067 in a contract in which Bishop Andrea assigned land  on the slopes below it to the Cathedral Chapter.  (This land next to the Duomo extended as far as Sant’ Elia and the old Palazzo Vescovile).    The dedication to the prophet Elijah is unusual.  Bishop Benedetto gave the church to the Franciscans in 1226, having  transferred its parish responsibilities to the Duomo in 1226. 

The short time that the friars stayed here were momentous for their order:

  1. Their beloved St Francis died in nearby Assisi a few months after they moved here.  Pope Gregory IX (having been driven from Rome by a rebellion) travelled  to Assisi in 1228 to canonise him.  All the leading members of the order converged on Assisi in 1230, when his relics were translated with great ceremony to the spectacular new mother church of San Francesco, Assisi.

  2. When Pope Gregory IX was on his way to Assisi in 1228 he stayed with the Franciscan nuns at San Paolo inter Vineas, whose voluntary poverty moved him to tears.  He returned in 1234 to consecrate their church.  There must have been a strong rapport between the nuns and the friars at Sant' Elia.

  3. In 1232, Pope Gregory IX canonised the Franciscan St Antony of Padua in the Duomo of Spoleto.

  4. The Provincial Minister, Blessed Simon of Collazzone, died during a visit to the friars at Sant' Elia in 1250 and was buried in their church.  In 1252, Pope Innocent IV mandated Bishop Bartolomeo Accorombani of Spoleto and two other prelates to conduct a canonisation process.

  5. St Clare died in Assisi in 1253.   Bishop Bartolomeo Accorombani  presided over the collection of evidence to support her canonisation, which was effected in 1255.

It is therefore not surprising that the community at Sant' Elia grew quickly and attracted huge congregations and donations.   The friars began to build a new and larger church and convent, SS Simone e Giuda.   The canonisation process for Blessed Simon of Collazzone was unsuccessful, but his relics were nevertheless translated with great ceremony from Sant' Elia to SS Simone e Giuda in 1260.  This probably marked the end of the friars' stay at Sant' Elia.

Nothing is known about the later history of the church, which was demolished in ca. 1359 to make way for the construction of the Rocca.  Recent excavations have unearthed the foundations of its apse and nave. 

Return to Monuments of Spoleto.

Return to Walk I (for Sant’ Apollinare) or Walk II (for Sant’ Elia).