Key to Umbria: Spoleto

Saints of Spoleto

St Abbondanza (19th January)

Two saints of this name are venerated in Spoleto, both of whom are associated with St Gregory of Spoleto (see below) and the church of San Gregorio Maggiore.

St Antony of Padua (13th June)

St Antony of Padua was designated as one of the patron saints of Spoleto in 1602, at the behest of the friars of SS Simone e Giuda.

St Barattalis (9th October)

St Barattalis appears in the Legend of the Twelve Syrians.  He was executed after he had been found praying at the sepulchre of St Gregory of Spoleto (see below) and was subsequently buried next to St Gregory.  According to an inscription in San Gregorio Maggiore, the church was consecrated as "Sanctorum Martirum  Gregorii et Paractalis" in 1146. 

St Barattalis was among the local saints whose feast days were specified as holidays in the statutes of 1296.

St Brictius (9th July)

St Brictius was Bishop of "Martola" (perhaps Civitas Martana), who survived arrest and tortured in the reign of the Emperor Diocletian (284-305) and died in peace in 336.  He also appears in the Legend of the Twelve Syrians.  His relics were preserved in a sarcophagus that survives in the crypt of San Brizio.

Blessed Christina Semenzi (14th February)

Christina, who was born in Calvisano (near Brescia) in 1435, became an Augustinian tertiary when she was 14.  She visited Assisi in 1457 for the Festa del Perdono and then settled in Spoleto.  She devoted her time there to serving the poor at the Ospedale di San Matteo.   She died in 1458 and her relics were preserved under the Altare di San Michele in San Nicolò.  A cult developed when miracles were reported at her tomb. 

The Augustinian Order revived the cult of the Blessed Christina in 1834 and Pope Gregory XVI confirmed her beatification.  Her uncorrupted body was moved with the friars of San Nicolò to the church of the Madonna di Loreto in 1803.  This community was subsequently suppressed and the relics were moved to San Gregorio Maggiore in 1921.

St Concordius (1st January)

St Concordius was executed in the reign of the Emperor Antoninus Pius and was believed to have been buried in the early Christian cemetery  near the present church of San Salvatore, which was first documented in 1064 as the "monasterium sancti concordi".  The relics of St Concordius and  St Senzius (see below) were preserved in an urn (1727) in the church.  [Where is it now ??]

SS Felix and Maurus (16th June)

St Maurus and his son St Felix travelled from Caeasarea to Rome and then to the Val di Narco.  St Maurus became particularly venerated after he had killed a dragon.  After the death of St Felix, St Maurus built a church to house his tomb that subsequently became the Abbazia di SS Felice di Narco. 

The crypt of the abbey contains an ancient sarcophagus that is said to hold the remains of SS Felix and Maurus.  The legend of these saints is the oldest recorded legend that relates to the Legend of the 300 Syrians.

Blessed Francis Beccaria of Pavia (16th August)

Blessed Francis Beccaria became a Franciscan hermit on Monteluco in ca. 1417.  He was a close follower of St Bernardino of Siena (died 1444, canonised 1450) and was revered for his gift of prophesy and his celestial visions.  His relics are revered in the  church of San Francesco di Monteluco.

St Gabriel Possenti (27th February)

St Gabriel (Francis Possenti) was born in Assisi in 1838 and moved to Spoleto in 1841.  His sister died in a cholera epidemic that swept Spoleto in 1856 and it was during a procession of the SS Icone (see below) at the end of the epidemic that he decided to take religious vows.  He joined the Passionist Congregation in 1856 and was given the name of Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows (Gabriele dell' Addolorata).  He died and was buried at Isola del Gran Sasso in the Abruzzi  in 1862. Pope Benedict XV canonised him in 1920.

St Gregory of Spoleto  (24th December)

St Gregory was a priest who was martyred during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian.  St Abbondanza the widow (see above) buried him in the Christian cemetery outside the city walls, near a bridge called "Sanguinarius" (Ponte Sanguinario).  He was among the local saints whose feast days were specified as holidays in the statutes of 1296.

Three churches in Spoleto are or were dedicated to St Gregory:

  1. San Gregorio della Sinagoga, on the site of his prison;

  2. San Gregorio Minore, on the site of the amphitheatre in which he was martyred; and

  3. San Gregorio Maggiore, near the cemetery, which St Abbondanza the virgin built the first church of San Gregorio Maggiore in ca. 840 to house the relics. 

These relics have had a chequered history, but most of the cranium was finally returned to San Gregorio Maggiore in 1619.

Blessed Gregory of Spoleto [feast day?]

There seem to have been two men of this name:
  1. One is known from a wooden sarcophagus that was documented in the Duomo in 1348.

  2. The other was a Franciscan friar at San Francesco di Monteluco, where he died in 1473.    Bishop Paolo Sanvitale ordered the official recognition of his relics in 1597.

One of these men acquired a relic known as the Sacro Chiodo (see below) and this subsequently found its way to the church of San Domenico.

St Isaac of Monteluco (11th April)

St Isaac came from Syria in the 6th century and lived as a hermit outside Spoleto.  He founded an eremetical community beside San Giuliano and became its first abbot.   He died there and was buried in the crypt. 

The relics were subsequently translated to what is now Sant’ Isacco (the crypt of Sant' Ansano).  The sarcophagus (12th century) that housed them for a period is now in the Museo Nazionale del Ducato di Spoleto, while the relics are enclosed in a copy of it in Sant' Isacco.

SS John of Spoleto (19th September) and John Penariensis (19th March)

St John of Spoleto (illustrated here) became Bishop of Spoleto in 492 and was probably executed by Totila in 546.  He might have inspired the figure of St John in the Legend of the Twelve Syrians, whom St Brictius (see above) ordained as Bishop of Spoleto.

Gunderada, who was the abbess of the nunnery at Sant’ Eufemia at the time of the Emperor Otto II (973-83), found the relics and moved them to the nuns’ church, which was re-dedicated as SS Giovanni e Eufemia.  [Bishop Enrico Gualfriedi seems to have translated the relics to San Pietro in 1130].  St John was among the local saints whose feast days were specified as holidays in the statutes of 1296.

St John Penariensis came from Syria into Italy and there founded a monastery that is thought to have been to the present church of San Giovanni di Panaria (12th century) outside Spoleto.  He received permission to do so from Bishop John of Spoleto.   

SS Laurence of Farfa (8th July) and Laurence the Illuminator (4th February)

There are two saints of this name who feature in the hagiography of Spoleto:
  1. St Laurence of Farfa (illustrated here), whom the monks of the Abbazia di Farfa venerated as their founder and as a relative of St Anastasius, in the Legend of the Twelve Syrians; and

  2. St Laurence the Illuminator, who lived in the time of Pope Caius (283-96) and may have been the Bishop of Spoleto.  He became incorporated into the Legend of the 300 Syrians.

Blessed Leopold of Gaiche (2nd April)

Blessed Leopold of Gaiche joined the Franciscan Order in 1752 and rose to become Provincial Minister.  He retired to San Francesco di Monteluco in 1788 and was buried there in 1815.  Pope Leo XIII beatified him in 1893.  His relics are still venerated at San Francesco di Monteluco.

Blessed Marina Petrucciani (Feast ??)

Blessed Marina Petrucciani  took vows at Santa Maria della Stella and founded the associated nunnery of San Matteo, where she died i 1502).  Her relics were venerated at Santa Maria della Stella until 1905, when the canonesses took the reliquary (18th century) with them to San Ponziano.  It is still on the altar at the end of the right aisle.

Blessed Peter Bonilli (5th January)

Blessed Peter, who became the priest of a parish near Trevi in 1863, had a particular devotion to the Holy Family.  He established an order of nuns that became known as the Suore della Sacra Famiglia (Sisters of the Holy Family) that helped in the pastoral work of the parish.

Blessed Peter persuaded Pope Leo XIII to approve the cult of the Holy Family in 1893. He moved to Spoleto in 1898 and died there in 1935.  He was beatified in 1988.

St Peter Martyr (29th April)

Tommaso Petrucci, Conti di Chiavano, the leader of the Ghibellines of Spoleto, laid siege to the city in 1391.  The siege was lifted on the feast of St Peter Martyr, and he was duly proclaimed as a patron of the city.

St Pontian (14th or 19th January)

St Pontian was executed in the reign of the Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-61).  He was probably buried in the early Christian cemetery near the site of the present church of San Ponziano.   His relics were preserved at San Ponziano until 966, when Bishop Balderik took them to Utrecht.  The feast of St Pontian is included among the holidays prescribed in all of the surviving city statutes, the earliest of which dates to 1296. 

The cult of St Pontian became prominent in 1703, when prayers at San Ponziano before a relic that was thought to be his cranium apparently helped Spoleto to escape the worst effects of an earthquake.  The authenticity of the relic was confirmed in 1745 and again in 1805, when it was enclosed in a new silver reliquary.  This reliquary is still displayed in the Duomo for a week in January each year and then taken back in procession to San Ponziano.

St Primianus (31st August)

The surviving tribune of a church dedicated to St Primianus was recorded near the Duomo in 1067.  This was probably dedicated to the saint of this name who was martyred on 15th May, 303 in Larino in what became the Duchy of Benevento.  Saracen mercenaries destroyed Larino in 842 and the relics were stolen and taken to nearby Lesina. 

Duke Guy I of Spoleto was very much involved in the civil war in the Duchy of Benevento in the 840s.  He may well have secured some of the relics during the chaos at Larina in 842 and taken them to Spoleto.  If this is the case, the date of 31st August probably records their translation to Spoleto.

St Sabinus (7th or 30th December)

St Sabinus was a bishop who was arrested at Assisi in 303 and  martyred at Spoleto.  The widow  Serena buried him in the cemetery north of the city that is now the site of the church of San Sabino.   The cult of St Sabinus, which was very important in the Lombard period, became widely dispersed, generally following the dispersal of his relics.

St Senzius (25th May)

St Senzius lived in the 5th century as a hermit on a hill named "Cicianus" (Colle Ciciano).  He killed a dragon on the summit and established a baptistery on the spot: this may have been on the site of the ex-church of San Michele Arcangelo. 

When he died, the people of Spoleto erected a basilica over his grave.  This was probably on the site of the church now known as San Salvatore, which was certainly known as SS Concordio e Senzia (see St Concordius above) in the 12th century.  The relics of SS Concordius and Senzius  were preserved in an urn (1727) in the church.  [Where is it now ??]

Blessed Simon of Collazzone (24th April)

Simon was born in the late 12th or early 13th century at Collazzone, near Todi.  He gave up his privileged background at a very early age and joined the small band of followers of St Francis.  He was among the friars that Brother Elias sent to Germany in 1221. He subsequently became Provincial Minister of Umbria and died during a visit to the friars at Sant’ Elia in 1250.  Miracles were soon attributed to his intercession.

In 1252, Pope Innocent IV instituted a canonisation process.   This was inconclusive, but the relics of “St” Simon were nevertheless translated with great solemnity to the new church of SS Simone e Giuda in 1260.  Simon was formally recognised as a saint in the statutes of Spoleto from at least 1296.  Despite the longevity of the cult at Spoleto, a second canonisation process in 1747 also failed.

When SS Simone e Giuda was suppressed in 1863, the relics were placed into two urns (the skull in one and the rest of the relics in the other) and taken to the Duomo.  In 2000, they were translated to Sant’ Ansano and placed under the high altar. 

St Vitalis (14th February)

St Vitalis was martyred at Spoleto with 84 soldiers.  The only other information about him comes from an inscription  that was originally in the church of San Lorenzo, Terzo della Pieve, outside Spoleto. This records that Bishop Spes (ca. 380-410) discovered the relics of St Vitalis and dedicated an altar to him in the church. 

Bishop Paolo Sanvitale translated the relics and the inscription to the Duomo in 1597.  The inscription was broken, probably during its translation but it is known from a transcription and from a surviving fragment that is now in Sant' Eufemia.  A relic of the tibia of St Vitalis is now in the Cappella delle Reliquie in the Duomo.

Venerated Objects in Spoleto

Chains of St Peter

The earliest surviving reference to the relic of the chains of St Peter is in the epitaph (known from copies) of Bishop Achilleus in San Pietro.  The epitaph says that Bishop Achilleus built the church and that it contained “vincla petri” (chains of St Peter).  Bishop Achilleus celebrated Easter in Rome in 419, and it is usually assumed that he obtained filings from the relic (illustarted here) at that time.  No relic of these chains survives in Spoleto.

Letter of St Francis

This autograph letter from St Francis to Brother Leo is kept in a reliquary in the Cappella delle Reliquie of the Duomo.   The handwriting suggests that the letter was written in ca. 1225, when St Francis was nearly blind and suffering from the effects of the stigmata. It went unrecorded until 1604, when it surfaced at SS Simone e Giuda.  When this church was suppressed in 1863, the letter again disappeared until 1893.  Pope Leo XIII established its authenticity and then entrusted it to the care of the Cathedral Chapter.  

Reliquary of the SS Icone

This reliquary in the Cappella della SS Icone of the Duomo contains an ancient and highly venerated icon of the Virgin.  It has long been at the centre of the celebration of Spoleto's most important religious holiday, the Feast of the Assumption (15th August).

Sacro Chiodo

The Blessed Gregory of Spoleto (see above) acquired Sacro Chiodo (a nail that had been used in the Crucifixion of Christ) in the 15th century.  After his death in 1473, it found its way to San Domenico. 

The relic is now in a silver reliquary (1726) inside another that is gold-plated, both of which are the work of the Roman goldsmith Ludovico Barchi.  The silver reliquary is exposed for worship each year on Good Friday and on 3rd May.

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Saints and Venerated Objects in Spoleto

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