Key to Umbria: Foligno

Early History of the Diocese

According to the earliest known legend of St Felician (BHL 2846), he was born in Forum Flaminii, an important city that that had been established on Via Flaminia in 220 BC.  He was consecrated as its first bishop by  by Pope Victor I (189-99) y, and was died as an old man when he was beilg taken in chains to Rome in the reign of the Emperor Decius (249-51).  Two later bishops are documented:

  1. Bishop Boniface, who attended a synod in Rome in 502; and

  2. Bishop Decentius, who attended a synod in Rome in 679.

[Local tradition asserts that the Lombard King Liutprand destroyed the city in 741.]

Earlier Church on the Site (6th century?)

An early Christian basilica was discovered 1929 some 100 meters from the present church. Unfortunately, its exact location is unknown.  It was only partially excavated, but a sketch made at that time records an apse and the start of a nave and two side aisles.  According to Luigi Sensi (referenced below, at p. 9), it could be inferred from this sketch that the original structure was:

  1. “... a large basilica made up of a tripartite longitudinal hall and a distinct apsed area” (my translation).

The iconography of a mosaic (below) discovered in situ reveals that this was an early Christian basilica.  Luigi Sensi suggested (at p. 17) that this building might have been the source for the statement in the legend of St Felician (ca. 800 AD) that he had been arrested while praying in basilica quae appellatur palatina  (in the palatine basilica).

The mosaic mentioned above was moved to the Museo Archeologico, where it was damaged during the bombardment of 1944.  It was restored in 2005 on the basis of the few remaining fragments.  The main scene (largely sketched in)depicted two peacocks drinking from a cantharos (drinking cup with two handles), which represents eternal life.  Elena Calandra (referenced below) dated it to the 6th or 7th century.

As noted above, part of an architrave (ca. 750 AD) that has been re-used as a column in the crypt probably came from this basilica.

Present Church

The church was first documented as a parish church (“plebem sancti Joannis de Foro Flaminis”) in 1138, when Pope Innocent II confirmed it as a possession of the Bishop Benedetto of Foligno.  A lost inscription on the facade, which is known from a transcription, recorded that facade was completed in 1231, in the time of Pope Gregory IX.

A community of canons administered the church from at least the 13th century.  This community was suppressed in the Napoleonic period, when the property and rights of the complex were transferred to the Duomo of Foligno.


The façade contains a rose window with two small before windows to the sides.

The portal below contains some interesting reliefs:


  1. The relief to the right of the top of the right jamb depicts a pope (presumably Pope Gregory IX) seated on a dragon.  This is probably a reference to his fight against heresy: he instituted the Inquisition in February 1231.  The inscription in the book that he holds in his right hand reads "PAX VOBIS" (Peace be unto you).  The inscription along the right edge of the relief reads "Filippo me fecit": it is not clear whether Philip made the relief or the portal. 

  2. The relief opposite side of the depicts a naked man killing a dragon.  

The lower window of the building to the right of the church contains a bust [date??] of St Felician. 


The church has a single nave and elevated presbytery, which is reached by thirteen steps.   The two arches on each side of the presbytery open onto adjoining chapels. 

The church owes its current appearance to a restoration of 1903. 
  1. The ciborium over the altar is a modern copy of that of San Prospero, Perugia, which was made during the restoration using ancient fragments found under the church. 

  2. The column that now forms the base of the altar is of Roman origin.

Madonna della Misercordia (14th century)

A fragment of the votive fresco survives on the left side of the apse.

Madonna of the Rosary (1625)

This damaged altarpiece by Marcantonio Grecchi is in the chapel to the right of the apse.

Baptism of Christ (18th century)

This panel, which is attributed to Tommaso Nasini, is in the sacristy.


The arches to the sides of the steps of the presbytery lead down to the crypt.

Part of a sarcophagus (6th century AD) is embedded in the right wall, immediately before the entrance to the crypt.

Six columns made up of ancient fragments divide the crypt into a nave and two aisles. 

The second column on the left is made from a re-used pilaster carved with Christian symbols:
  1. a peacock on one side;

  2. a cross in a circle (above a geometrical pattern) on the second; and 

  3. a cross in a circle above a grape vine on the third.

According to Josselita Serra Raspi (referenced below, at 369-70 and Figures 3 and 5), the surviving fragment was perhaps half of an architrave used in a presbytery, in which the undecorated side would have faced upwards in a location in which it could not be seen.  The motifs on the surviving half would have been reflected symmetrically on the other.  She dated the relief to the middle of the 8th century.  As noted above, this architrave was probably carved for an earlier church on the site. 

Read more:

E. Calandra, “Mosaico: Forum Flaminii”, in”

  1. A. Bravi (Ed.), “Aurea Umbria: Una Regione dell’ Impero nell’ Era di Costantino”, Bollettino per i Beni Culturali dell’ Umbria, (2012) p. 84

L. Sensi, “La Basilica Paleochristiana di Forum Flaminii”, Bollettino Storico della Città di Foligno, 5 (1981) 9-22

J. Serra Raspi, “La Scultura dell' Umbria Centro-Meridionale dall' VIII al X Secolo”, in:

  1. Aspetti dell' Umbria dall' Inizio del Secolo VIII alla Fine del Secolo XI: Atti del III Convegno di Studi Umbri, Gubbio, 23 - 27 Maggio, 1965”, (1966) Perugia, pp. 365-86

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San Giovanni Profiamma (11th century)

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