Key to Umbria: Spoleto

San Sabino (12th century)

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This church stands on the site of an early Christian cemetery.  According to tradition, the widow Serena buried St Sabinus  here after his martyrdom in 303.  The sarcophagus (late 4th century) of Lucius Baebius Sabinus, which was found here, is now in the Museo del Ducato di Spoleto (1.3).

There seems to have been a church dedicated to St Sabinus here from at least the late 6th century.  Paul the Deacon made two references to it in his "History of the Lombards":

  1. In 591, when Ariulf, Duke of Spoleto went into " the church of the blessed martyr, the bishop Sabinus, in which his venerable body reposes" because he had been told that Christian soldiers "were wont to invoke [St Sabinus] to their aid as often as they went to war". He recognised an image of St Sabinus as a portrait of a man who had protected him during his battle against the Byzantines at Camerino in 598. (Book 4, chapter 16).  

  2. The Lombard King Aribert II (701 - 12) exiled Peter (Petros), a relative of the future King Liutprand to Spoleto.  As Peter prayed in "the church of the blessed martyr Sabinus", the saint appeared to him and told him that he would become Bishop of Pavia.  When Liutprand came to the throne in 712, Peter duly became Bishop of Pavia and built a church dedicated to St Sabinus on his own property in the diocese.

In ca. 970, a representative of Bishop Theoderic I of Metz acquired St Serena's remains from San Sabino, along with other relics that were documented, perhaps incorrectly, as those of St Gregory.  Theoderic took them back to Metz.   

The present church on the site dates to the 12th century but it was re-modeled in Baroque style in 1623 and largely rebuilt after the earthquake of 1768.

[An inscription on the counter-facade records its restoration by Pope Clement XIII.]

The nave and two aisles were rebuilt on the original foundations and original apse and apsidal chapels survive.  The apsidal chapel on the right incorporates , which incorporates fragments of a Roman mausoleum that belonged to the gens Caesia.

During excavations in 2006, tombs from the Roman and Lombard periods were discovered.


The church  has a nave and two aisles, with a raised presbytery over the crypt. 

Madonna and Child with Saints [date??]

This panel on the high altar depicts the Madonna and Child with SS Sabinus and Charles Borromeo.

Martyrdom of St Sabinus [date??]

This panel, which shows a guard cutting off the hands of St Sabinus, is on the left wall.

St Sabinus [date??]

This fresco is where ??

Madonna della Misercordia [date??]

This fresco is where ??

St Sabinus [date??]

This processional statue of polychromed wood is kept on a plinth on the left wall.


Two sets of steps, one to each side, lead to the crypt below the presbytery.  One of the steps on the left [contains an inscription].  

The altar is set in front of the back wall of the crypt.  The reliquary of St Sabinus is housed in a niche behind and to the left of it.

There is an interesting pilaster at the centre of the apse wall [more].