Key to Umbria: Assisi

St Rufinus of Arce (19th August)

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According to a legend published in 1654, St Rufinus of Arce (known in Assisi as San Rufinuccio) was a young cleric who refused to perjure himself in defence of a priest charged with bad behaviour in 1286.  He was  thrown into a well at Arce, on the plain outside Assisi.  Monks from the Abbazia di San Benedetto al Monte Subasio saw a light coming from the well and, when they investigated further, found the body.  They retrieved it and built a tiny church (San Rufino in Arce) on the site. 

The date of 1286 cannot be correct:

  1. A missal (late 12th century) from Assisi that is now in Frankfurt records the feast of “S. Ruphini de Arce” on 19th August.

  2. The bull in which Pope Honorius III confirmed the possessions of the Canons of San Rufino in 1217 includes the church of San Rufino in Arce in the list.

The Oratorio di San Rufinuccio , which belonged to a confraternity in Assisi that was dedicated to St Rufinus of Arce, was first documented in 1348.

A document in the Cathedral archives records that the relics of St Rufino of Arce were “recognised” in 1571 and translated to San Rufino in 1586.  The Altare di San Rufinuccio there (on the left in the presbytery) was probably given this dedication as soon as the remodelling of that church was complete.  The relics are still preserved under its altar.

(The feast of St Rufinus of Arce was originally celebrated in Assisi on 30th July, the date given in the Roman Martyrology for the entry: “At Assisi in Umbria, St Rufinus, martyr”.  The feast was moved to 19th August in the list of feasts of Assisi that was published in 1938:  the Roman Martyrology lists St Rufinus of Mantua under that date.)

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