Key to Umbria: Città di Castello

San Domenico (1399-1426)

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Detail from the plan (ca. 1675) of Città di Castello

by Filippo Titi (Biblioteca Comunale “Giosue Carducci”)

Early History of the Community

San Pietro di Massa (13th century)

The Dominicans arrived in Città di Castello in ca. 1270, and Bishop Giacomo Cavalcanti gave them the church of San Pietro di Massa (later the Oratorio di Santa Caterina, [36]) in 1287.   The Dominicans moved to a new church (see below) before 1367, the year in which they gave San Pietro di Massa to the Confraternita di Santa Caterina.  The old church was later surrounded by the orchard of their convent.

Santa Maria della Carità (14th century)

The Dominicans’ new church, which was on the adjoining site, was dedicated as Santa Maria della Carita [50].  The Blessed Margherita of Città di Castello apparently attended this church and was buried here after her death in 1320.  Her legend claims that the people opposed the friars’ plan to bury her in the cloister and contributed to the cost of burying her in the church.

The friars soon began work on a larger church, which had received the relics of the Blessed Margherita in or shortly before 1422 (below).  Santa Maria della Carita passed to the Confraternita della Carità in 1424.  It was demolished in 1832 to make way for the piazza in front of the hospital Ospedali Uniti.

San Domenico (1399-1426)

The Dominicans presented plans for their new church [13] to the Commune in 1392.  These were accepted, and work began in 1399.  The huge structure seems to have been largely complete by 1422, when the authorities promised an annual gift of wax on the feast of the Blessed Margherita, whose relics were at that point inside it.  Marino di San Marino,  the titular archbishop of Sebastia (Armenia), consecrated the church in 1426. 

Exterior of San Domenico

The facade of the church remains incomplete.

The original side door survives in the left wall.  The fresco (17th century) in the lunette above it depicts  the Madonna and Child with St Dominic and the Blessed Margherita.



The entrances to the cloister are to the right of the facade.  There is a fine view of the campanile as one enters.  According to a painted inscription [where?], Fr. Lorenzo Giustini commissioned the upper storey (1662-7).

The lovely trifore windows (14th century) of the Chapter House are preserved here.    

Scenes from the Life of Blessed Margherita (1662)


Fr. Lorenzo Giustini commissioned these frescoes depicting scenes from the life of the Blessed Margherita of Città di Castello in the lower storey of the cloister.  Each of the frescoes has a painted inscription describing the scene.  Some of the scenes are now ruined and others have been heavily restored.  The first five are by the aged Giovanni Battista Pacetti, lo Sguazzino.  They include these two, which depict:

  1. the Blessed Margherita receiving the Dominican habit; and

  2. the funeral of the the Blessed Margherita.

After the death of lo Sguazzino, Salvi Castellucci painted the other 27 lunettes and the frescoes of Dominican saints:

  1. the date 1662 appears in the inscription under the fresco in which the Blessed Margherita educates the children of Venturino (her adoptive father); and

  2. the same date appears in two inscriptions that also contain the signature “SC”, under:

  3. Blessed Margherita cures the blindness of Sister Venturella; and

  4. the resurrection of Giustolo da Marzano.

Interior of San Domenico

The huge hall church was remodelled in the Baroque style in  1724.  These additions were removed in another remodelling that was carried out in 1912-20, during which the frescoes on the walls were rediscovered.


The relics of the Blessed Margherita of Citta di Castello were under the high altar in 1678.

The choir stalls  (1435) were signed by the Florentine Manno di Benincasa Mannucci (Manno dei Cori) and dated by inscription.

St Antony Abbot enthroned (15th century)

This lovely fresco is on the left wall:
  1. In the main field, St Antony Abbot enthroned is flanked by two narrative scenes:

  2. on the left, sick people congregate outside his cell and implore him to cure them; and

  3. on the right, he prays in the desert to be freed from tormenting demons. 

  4. The scene in the lunette above depicts [St Julian killing his parents ??], with associated scenes to the sides.

Votive Frescoes (15th century)


                                        Left wall                                                                    Right wall

These composite frescoes include:

  1. on the right wall:

  2. St Antony Abbot;

  3. the stigmatisation of St Catherine of Siena; and

  4. [which saint ?]; and

  5. on the right wall

  6. the Crucifixion, which was painted over earlier frescoes;

  7. the resurrected Christ;

  8. the Trinity (the lower part of which has been destroyed); and

  9. the Annunciation, with the figure of the Virgin Annunciate from a later version superimposed.

Crucifixion (14th century)


This lovely fresco of the Crucifixion with the Virgin and SS John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalene is in the chapel on the right, which is dedicated to those fallen in war.

Art from the Church

Signorelli and Raphael


These two  altarpiece frames in pietra serena in San Domenico once housed important altarpieces:

  1. The frame illustrated here on the left housed the altarpiece of the Cappella di San Sebastiano (on the left wall, just before the left apsidal chapel).  It once contained the inscription:



  4. (Tommaso Brozzi and his wife, Francesca [Cesari] had this work made: 1498)

  5. The will of Tommaso Brozzi records that he had indeed established this chapel in 1498, and the surviving frame bears his arms.  This frame once contained the altarpiece (ca. 1498) of the Martyrdom of St Sebastian by Luca Signorelli (below).

  6. The almost identical frame illustrated here on the right housed the altarpiece of the Cappella di San Girolamo and forms its pendant (i.e. it is on the right wall, just before the right apsidal chapel).  It contains the Gavari arms and an inscription along the bottom   that reads:


  8. (Domenico di Tommaso Gavari had this work made: 1503)

  9. In his will of 1511, Domenico requested burial in this chapel.   This frame once contained the altarpiece (ca. 1503) of the Crucifixion with Saints by Raphael (below).

Martyrdom of St Sebastian (ca. 1498)

In his “Lives of the Artists” (1550), Giorgio Vasari referred to this work (“St Sebastian on [a]  panel”) in San Domenico in his entry on Luca Signorelli.   The circumstantial evidence provided by the frame suggests that Tommaso Brozzi commissioned the altarpiece in ca. 1498.  This was probably Signorelli’s last work in Città di Castello before he left for Orvieto.  It remained in situ until at least 1856 and was transferred to the Pinacoteca Comunale in 1867.

Raphael clearly had the opportunity to study Signorelli’s altarpiece when he was at work on his commission in the church (below).  Indeed, a sketch (ca. 1500) by Raphael of one of Signorelli’s figures (the archer to the right who faces away from the viewer) survives in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Crucifixion with Saints (ca. 1503) 

This altarpiece from the Cappella di San Girolamo is signed by Raphael.  The circumstantial evidence provided by the frame suggests that Domenico di Tommaso Gavari commissioned it in ca. 1503.  Its main panel depicts the Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist, and with SS Jerome and Mary Magdalene kneeling to the sides of the cross.   Two angels catch the blood from the wounds in Christ’s hands, with symbols of the sun and the moon above.  The scene is set in a landscape and all of the figures seem to be lost in contemplation.

This main panel was sold in 1808 and subsequently had a succession of private owners.  It is known as the Mond Crucifixion because the last of these, Ludwig Mond, bequeathed it to the National Gallery, London in 1924.  The predella panels, which the friars seem to have been given away in the 17th century, probably depicted episodes from the life of St Jerome.  They may well have included: 

  1. a panel of Eusebius of Cremona using St Jerome's cloak to raise three men from the dead, which is now in the Museu Nacional  de Arte Antiga, Lisbon; and

  2. a panel of St Jerome saving Silvanus from decapitation and the miraculous decapitation instead of the heretic Sabinianus, which is now in the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh.

Other Art from the Church

Madonna and Child (ca. 1400)

This panel in the Pinacoteca Comunale, which seems to have been the central panel of a triptych, is attributed to Spinello Aretino.  Its provenance is unclear:  
  1. Andrea De Marchi and Alberto Fiz (referenced below) have suggested that it came from a polyptych in San Domenico.

  2. For an alternative suggestion that it formed part of a hypothetical altarpiece on the high altar of San Francesco, see the discussion and references provided on that page.

Maestà (early 14th century)

This altarpiece in the Pinacoteca Comunale, which is the autograph work of the Maestro di Città di Castello, was painted for the Dominicans' first church of Santa Maria della Carità and was brought here with the friars.  It has been badly restored but must have been magnificent when first executed.

Annunciation (ca. 1505)

Francesco Federico Mancini published the document commissioning this altarpiece for the Altare dei Magalotti, San Domenico.  It is signed by "Franciscus Thifer" (Francesco Tifernate) and (as noted above), it is the only securely attributed work by this artist. 

An inscription on the now-lost predella  referred to the donor, Giovanni Magalotti and gave the date, 1504.  However, the document commissioning the altarpiece makes it clear that this inscription related only to the altar.

The contract for the altarpiece was signed in 1505 between:

  1. Ludovica, the widow of Giovanni Magalotti, who had obviously died in the previous year; and

  2. Francesco Tifernate, under the guarantee of his father, Battista di Florido, which suggests that Francesco was still a minor.  

Ludovica specified that the dimensions of the altarpiece should be similar to those of Raphael’s altarpiece for the Gavari chapel in the same church: i.e. Raphael’s Crucifixion with Saints (ca. 1503).   

Although the main panel of the altarpiece survives in the Pinacoteca Civica, the documented predella no longer survives.

Martyrdom of St Sebastian (1524)

This altarpiece, which was documented in San Domenico in 1728, that identifies:
  1. the commissioner, Battista di Giacomo Corti (who is pictures kneeling with his wife and son at the bottom of the composition;

  2. the artist, Giacomo di Milano; and

  3. the date 1524.

This is the only known work by Giacomo di Milano, although he was documented in 1525-6 at Santa Maria di Monteluce, Perugia in relation to work on the Monteluce Altarpiece (1505-25) after the death of Raphael.  It entered the Pinacoteca Comunale in ca. 1878.

Gilded Wooden Coffin (1558)

This coffin was commissioned to contain the relics of the Blessed Margherita of Città di Castello after their recognition in 1588.  The inscription reads:





The relics were removed from the coffin in 1678, when they were placed under the high altar of the church.  It was documented in the church in 1728 but moved to the civic collection in ca. 1860.  It is now in the Pinacoteca Comunale.

Annunciation (ca. 1559)

This altarpiece from San Domenico, which is attributed to Raffaellino del Colle, was on the Altare dell’ Annunciazione (the 3rd on the left), which Antonio Libelli financed in 1559.  It is now in the Pinacoteca Comunale.

Madonna and Child with Saints (1597)

This panel, which is signed by Gregorio Pagani and dated by inscription, was documented in the church in 1832.  It was apparently commissioned by General Antonio Corvini, after his return to Città di Castello after fighting in the French Wars of Religion.    The panel, which is now the Pinacoteca Comunale, depicts the Madonna and Child with SS Francis, Dominic, John the Baptist, Joseph, Matthew, Louis of France and Antony Abbot.

Read more:

The provenance of the panel of the Madonna and Child (ca. 1400) attributed to Spinello Aretino (above) is discussed in:

  1. A. De Marchi and A. Fiz, “Oro: Maestri Gotici e Lucio Fontana”, (1998) Milan

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