Key to Umbria: Amelia

Santa Maria dei Laici (14th century)

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Original Hospice

In a surviving will date 1306 (one of the oldest of its kind to survive in Italy), a lady called Casuccia Mellis named the Fraternita dei Laici among the beneficiaries.  The statutes (1355) of this organisation survive: members were required, among other things, to bury the dead and to visit the sick.  The statutes also required the brothers to make daily prayers before a Marian image that was "assai antica e miracolosa si venerava sotto un portico ove oggi e la pubblica chiesa" (very old, and venerated under a portico where there is now a public church).   This church and an adjacent hospice were just inside Porta Romana.

Present Church (1517)

The city statutes of 1517 recorded that a certain young girl had seen sweat appear on the ancient image of the Virgin, which was described as being on the wall of a portico in the Ospitale Sancta Mariae Laicorum.  This space must have become unavailable for the devotions of the brothers of the Confraternita della Misericordia, who administered the hospice, because they held their services elsewhere in Amelia.  The miracle led to an influx of donations that financed the construction of a new church, which was generally known as the Chiesa dell’ Ospedaletto. 

In 1570, the Confraternita della Misericordia was incorporated into the Arciconfraternita di San Giovanni Decollato (or dei Fiorentini), Rome.  From this point, they had the privilege of reprieving a convicted criminal from execution on the feast  of the beheading of St John the Baptist.  The church was re-dedicated as San Giovanni Decollato.


[The church comprises three rooms.]

[Where is the Marian image?]

Beheading of St John the Baptist (1571) 

This altarpiece is signed by Livio Agresti and dated by inscription.  It was presumably commissioned to mark the incorporation of the Confraternita della Misericordia into the Arciconfraternita di San Giovanni Decollato.

Altarpieces (1602)

These two altarpieces on the entrance wall, which are attributed to Litardo Piccioli, depict:

  1. the Baptism of Christ; and

  2. St John the Baptist preaching (dated by inscription).

Later History of the Complex

The hospice was reorganised as what we would recognise to be a hospital in 1687.  A plaque on the facade of the church records that Bishop Tommaso Struzzieri moved it to the site of  the present Ospedale di Santa Maria dei Laici in 1772.   This site had previously belonged to the nuns of Santo Stefano.

The church is now deconsecrated, and the complex houses the Centro Culturale Santa Firmina.

Read more:

This interesting website has more information and illustrations.

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