Key to Umbria: Città di Castello

Pieve di San Crescentino de’ Saddi (11th century)

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The Pieve di San Crescentino de’ Saddi is the traditional site of the martyrdom of St Crescentian and the other so-called Martyrs of Saddi.   The Vita Floridi (BHL 3062), which was written in ca. 1077, relates that, as St Floridus approached death (traditionally in 599), he moved with St Amantius to the Pieve de’ Saddi and built a house here. 

Structure of the Complex

The tower in front of the facade of the church, which was originally free-standing, is the oldest part of the complex.  The complex belonged to the Vitelli family in the 16th century.

The building between this tower and the facade was built (or perhaps rebuilt) by Bishop Giulio Vitelli in ca. 1520 as his residence.  He had formally held episcopal office at Città di Castello in 1499 - 1503, although he held on to the post through force of arms until 1505, when Pope Julius II threatened the city with an interdict.  He then served with distinction as a mercenary in the papal army, before retiring to Città di Castello in ca. 1520.  An inscription from the church (see below) names him as bishop-elect in 1521.  However, circumstances must have intervened to prevent him from taking office: Baldassarre Caetano de Grassi was (at least formally) in post at Città di Castello throughout 1515-35.  According to Elvio Ciferri (referenced below, at pp. 234-6), he was “proposto della cattedrale” from 1514 until his death in 1530 and was buried in the Duomo.

Access to the church is by doors in each side wall, and it can also be reached from inside the residential building.  It is in the form of a nave with side aisles, and has a five-sided apse. 

The crypt is below the apse and first bay of the nave and side aisles.

Little of the original ancient church survives.


According to tradition, St Crescentian and the other martyrs were buried on the site of the Altare di San Crescentino in the crypt.  The altar front still has the metal grating through which the relics were viewed.  However, none of the relics now remain in the church.

The body of St Crescentian was translated from the Pieve di Saddi to Urbino in 1068, although the head initially remained in situ

An inscription on the back of the Altare dei Corpi Santi in the crypt of the Duomo, list the saints whose relics were placed here by the canons of the Duomo in the 11th century.  These include SS Floridus and Amantius, together with four of the martyrs of Saddi:
  1. St Grivicianus;

  2. St Virianus;

  3. St Orphitus; and

  4. St Esuperantius.

The relic of the head of St Crescentian presumably gained in importance when his feast was reconfirmed by the Congregation of Rites in 1609.   Evidence for this resurgence can be found in the chapel in the crypt of the Duomo that is dedicated to St Crescentian: 
  1. An inscription on the right wall records that Bishop Luca Semproni translated the head of St Crescentian to Città di Castello in 1613. 

  2. In fact, this first translation involved only part of the head: Bishop Evangelista Tornioli apparently translated other part to the city in 1628.

The chapel contains a reliquary (16th century) associated with these translations and a gilded wooden reliquary bust of the saint (which no longer contains a relic).     

Monsignor Pompilio Mandrelli, who was the archpriest of Pietralunga in 1933-63, translated a reliquary from the Pieve de’ Saddi to Santa Maria delle Grazie.  A list by the reliquary claims that it contains relics of St Crescentian and of all the other martyrs of Saddi.

Interior of the Church

The arms of Bishop Giulio Vitelli in the vaults of the apse and in the crypt suggest that he restored this part of the church in ca. 1520.

St Crescentian (perhaps 13th century)

This relief on the wall of the steps on the left that lead down to the crypt depicts St Crescentian on horseback, killing a dragon.  It is the oldest known image of the saint.

Frescoes (15th century)

Two frescoes, each of which depicts the Madonna and Child enthroned, survive, one on the left wall and one on the right wall.  The latter fresco contains a depiction of the donor.

St Crescentian (early 16th century)

This damaged fresco is on the wall behind the Altare di San Crescentino in the crypt.

Art from the Church

Baptismal Font (ca. 1521)

The font from the church, which s now in the Museo del Duomo (Room VII), is inscribed:


(Giulio Vitelli, bishop-elect, 1521)

Read more:

F. Rossi (Ed.), “Pieve de’ Saddi: Un Luogo alle Origini del Cristianesimo Altotiberino”, Collana Architettura e Territorio 10 (2011)

E. Ciferri, “Tifernati Illustri: II”, 2001, Città di Castello

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