Key to Umbria: Perugia

Duomo: Chapels

Umbria:  Home   Cities    History    Art    Hagiography    Contact

Perugia:  Home    History   Art    Saints    Walks    Monuments    Museums

Duomo: Main page    Earlier Church     Exterior      Interior      Chapels 

This page describes:

  1. two chapels against the counter-facade 

  2. the Cappella del Santo Anello, to the right of the entrance; and

  3. Cappella di San Bernardino, to the left;

  4. the ex-Cappella di Sant’ Onofrio, which was in the right transept; and

  5. two chapels off the right wall:

  6. the Cappella dello Spirito Santo; and

  7. the Baptistery.

Cappella del Santo Anello

This chapel, at the corner of the left wall and counter-facade, was commissioned soon after the canonisation of St Bernardino of Siena in 1450, and was originally dedicated to him.   All that survives from the original decoration is the fresco (ca. 1471) of St Bernardino by Benedetto Bonfigli on the 1st column on the left side of the nave (see below).

The chapel was rededicated to the cult of the "Santo Anello", the quartz ring, which is said to have served as the Virgin’s wedding ring on her marriage to St Joseph in 1487.  The series of events that led up to this was as follows:

  1. The relic was stolen from Chiusi in 1473 and initially housed in the Palazzo dei Priori.

  2. The related feast of St Joseph was introduced into the civic calendar of Perugia in 1479

  3. The Observant Franciscan Bernardino da Feltre, who preached in Perugia in 1487, formed the Compagnia di San Giuseppe, which was mandated to support these cults, and was inscribed as its first member.  He also obtained permission for the Cappella di San Bernardino da Siena to be re-dedicated to St Joseph.

  4. Bishop Dionisio Vagnucci translated the Santo Anello from Palazzo dei Priori to the chapel in the following year.

St Bernardino of Siena (ca. 1451)

This fresco of the Duomo (on the 1st column on the left side of the nave) is attributed to Benedetto Bonfigli and is among his earliest known works.  It is all that survives of the planned Cappella di San Bernardino.  The fresco depicts the saint shortly before his death.  He points to a disc in the top lefthand corner that probably originally contained the letters “IHS”, the holy name of Christ.

Reliquary (1498-1511)


The relic is housed in a reliquary by Federico and Cesarino Roscetto, in which it hangs from a gilded silver crown (1716) that was donated by Ippolito della Corgna.  The reliquary is usually behind curtains above the present altarpiece in this chapel.  However, it is exhibited on the altar each July 31st, the anniversary of its translation to this location.  It is traditionally venerated by pilgrims en route for Santa Maria degli Angeli, Assisi to celebrate the Festa di Perdono there on August 2nd. 

At the time of my visit in January 2013, the relic (or possibly a replica of it) was exhibited in the Cappella di Santo Anello in what seems to be a replica of the reliquary (illustrated above, to the right).

Choir (1520-9)

The so-called Bancone dei Magistrati was commissioned from Giovanni Battista Bastoni.

Marriage of the Virgin (1825)

Filippo degli Oddi, the Prior of the Sacra Congregazione del Santo Anello, commissioned this altarpiece from his friend, Jean-Baptiste Wicar to replace an altarpiece (1814) of the same subject by Carlo Labruzzi (see below).   The face of the Roman soldier to the right is a portrait of Filippo degli Oddi.

The altarpiece was criticised in some quarters, probably because of the resentment aroused by the fact that the French artist, Wicar had played a part in the Napoleonic confiscations of 1797 that had included Perugino's original altarpiece from this chapel (see below).  Specific criticisms included the fact that the Virgin and St Joseph were depicted kneeling before the Jewish priest.  The figure of St Joseph was said to resemble a satyr while the female figures to the left were said to be unduly voluptuous. 

A cartoon for this altarpiece is exhibited in the Museo dell’ Accademia di Belle Arti.

Nativity (1874)

This stained glass window is by Francesco Moretti.

Art from the Chapel

Altare di San Bernardino (1473)


The Commune commissioned this altar from Agostino di Duccio for the original Cappella di San Bernardino .  The altar and the dedication to St Bernardino were moved to the opposite side of the nave (the present Cappella di San Bernardino) in 1486, when the original chapel was re-dedicated to the Santo Anello.  The altar was destroyed  in 1559.  Fragments from the arch that surrounded it are exhibited in the Museo Capitolare (Room 11).   They include a relief of the sacred name of Jesus (“IHS”), which was the emblem of St Bernardino.

Miracles of St Bernardino (1473)

These eight important panels by the so-called Workshop of 1473, which depict miracles of St Bernardino of Siena, are dated by inscription.  They were first recorded in 1784 in the sacristy of San Francesco al Prato (link below) and are now in the Galleria Nazionale.  In the panel illustrated here, St Bernardino restores to life a man found dead under a tree.

These panels are among the earliest surviving works in Perugia that fully reflect the aesthetic of Renaissance Florence and of the courts at Urbino and Rimini.  It is therefore surprising that they went unrecorded for so long.  They were restored in 1991-3, and it was during this work that it was confirmed that they had originally been painted on two planks (four scenes on each) that decorated the vertical sides of a niche.  Candidates for the original location of this niche include:

  1. this chapel in the Duomo;

  2. San Franceso al Prato; and

  3. the Oratorio di San Bernardino.

 (Follow the links in the page on the Workshop of 1473  for more details).

Altare del Santo Anello (1488) 

Benedetto Buglioni built a new terracotta altar for the chapel soon after its re-dedication.  It was modelled on Agostino di Duccio’s altar in the Cappella di San Lorenzo, San Domenico.  It was destroyed in the 18th century.  Reliefs of the prophets David and Isaiah survive [where??].

Marriage of the Virgin (1499-1503)

The Confraternita di San Giuseppe commissioned this important altarpiece from Perugino.  (The commission had originally been given to Pinturicchio in 1489, but he had failed to start the work, having left Perugia). 

Napoleon's commissioner, Jacques-Pierre Tinet selected the altarpiece for confiscation  in 1797, and it was duly sent to Paris.  It was transferred to Caen in 1804 and is now in the Musée des Beaux Arts, Caen. 

Marriage of the Virgin (1814)

The Sacra Congregazione del Santo Anello commissioned this altarpiece from Carlo Labruzzi when the original by Perugino was sent to France in 1797.  They were however unhappy with it, and it was replaced by the current altarpiece in 1825.  It is now in the Museo Capitolare (Room 20).

Cappella di San Bernardino

The dedication to St Bernardino of Sienna was switched to this chapel, at the corner of the right wall and counter-facade, from what is now the Cappella del Santo Anello (above) in 1486.  The Collegio della Mercanzia acquired the chapel in 1515, and their arms can be seen in the iron grill that encloses it. 

The College embarked on a major programme of redecoration in 1559.  Ottavio Lancellotti recorded in his “Scorta Sagra” (17th century) that the new altar (which replaced the altar mentioned above by Agostino di Duccio, which  had been moved here in 1486) was finished in 1567.  This altar (see below), which provided the original setting for Federico Barocci's altarpiece (1569) depicting the Descent from the Cross (see below), was destroyed in 1797. 

San Bernardino of Siena preaching (1565)

After some negative references to Hendrik van den Broeck (Arrigo Fiammingo da Malines), Giorgio Vasari added that he “acquitted himself better in a window of glass designed and painted by himself, and executed for [the Cappella di San Bernardino in the Duomo]”.   This stained glass window, which is signed “H-V-B” and dated by inscription, remains in situ.  An inscription below records that it was restored by Francesco Moretti in 1863. 

Descent from the Cross (1569)

The Collegio della Mercanzia commissioned this magnificent altarpiece by Federico Barocci for the altar in this chapel.  Napoleon's commissioner, Jacques-Pierre Tinet selected it for confiscation  in 1797, and it was sent to Paris.  Antonio Canova recovered it in 1815 and it was returned to the new altar in the chapel.

In the upper part of the altarpiece, Joseph of Arimathea and others struggle to remove the dead Christ from the Cross, while the Virgin swoons into the arms of her ladies below. 

Art from the Chapel 

Altare di San Bernardino (1559-67)

In 1559, the Collegio della Mercanzio commissioned Ludovico Scalza and and “Giovanni di Domenico Fiorentino” (who has been identified as Giovanni di Domenico Caffarelli da Settignano) to build a new altar.  It contained a number of works of sculpture that were attributed to Vincenzo Danti.  As noted above, Ottavio Lancellotti recorded in his “Scorta Sagra” (17th century) that this altar was finished in 1567.  The altar was destroyed in 1797, and is now known only from a drawing (1793) that still belongs to the Collegio della Mercanzia. 


Fragments in the Museo Capitolare that are attributed to Vincenzo Danti might have come from the decoration of this altar:

  1. a mutilated head of the Risen Christ; and

  2. a small head of the Virgin and three cherubs.

Cappella di Sant' Onofrio

Bishop Jacopo Vagnucci commissioned the addition of the transepts to the original plan of the Duomo in ca. 1480.  According to a lost inscription, he consecrated the chapel in the right transept, the Cappella di Sant’ Onofrio, before he resigned in 1482 to become Archbishop of Nicea.  The inscription, which was dated 1484, also recorded that his successor and nephew, Dionisio Vagnucci was responsible for the decoration of the chapel.  This was clearly intended to be the family burial chapel, and both Jacopo Vagnucci (died 1487) and Dionisio Vagnucci (died 1491) seem to have been interred in front of its altar. 

The original chapel was replaced by the present Cappella di Santo Stefano in 1608 (see the page on the Interior of the church).  

Art from the Chapel

Stained glass panels (ca. 1484)

The document that commissioned the stained glass of the tribune of the Duomo of Foligno from Neri di Monte in 1485 required him to take as his model the stained glass of the “Cappella del Vescovo” in the Duomo of Perugia.  This has to be the stained glass of the Cappella di Sant’ Onofrio.  This glass in Perugia is therefore attributed to Neri di Monte, and its design is attributed to Bartolomeo Caporali

The window of this chapel seems to have been reconstructed in 1608 (although its appearance can be surmised from the traceried window in the opposite transept).  Its original stained glass was sold to the friars of San Francesco, Assisi in 1765 and reused in the Upper Church there.  It was removed in ca. 1945 and what survives is now in the Museo del Tesoro di San Francesco [although not displayed ??].  These surviving fragments depict:

  1. from the upper register:

  2. a fragment of St John the Baptist;

  3. the Madonna and Child; and

  4. St Laurence; and

  5. from the lower register:

  6. St Onuphrius;

  7. St Jerome

  8. St Herculanus.

Sant' Onofrio Altarpiece (1484)

In his account of the work of Luca Signorelli, Giorgio Vasari (who had met Signorelli when he was a small boy) recorded: “In Perugia, he made many works; among others, a panel in the Duomo for Messer Jacopo Vagnucci of Cortona, Bishop of that city, in which panel are Our Lady and SS Humphrey (Onofrio in Italian), Herculanus, John the Baptist and Stephen, with a most beautiful angel who is tuning a lute.  The attribution of this panel to Luca Signorelli has never been doubted. 

During a recent restoration, traces of what seems to have been an imposing wooden frame were uncovered.  The form of this frame is unknown, but it could have also included a predella.  A small panel in the Louvre, Paris, which is attributed to Signorelli and depicts the birth and naming of St John the Baptist might have belonged to it.  It is also possible that the inscription mentioned above was at its centre.  The date of 1484 fits in with the known movements of Signorelli and with his style at that time.  It thus seems that this panel is among the earliest of his securely attributed works.

When this chapel was destroyed 1608, the altarpiece was moved a series of other locations in the Duomo: it was, for example, documented near the sacristy in 1674.  It became the major exhibit in the newly instituted Museo Capitolare in 1923. 

The altarpiece depicts the Madonna and Child with SS Humphrey ( dressed as an unkempt hermit), John the Baptist and Laurence and an unidentified bishop.  This last figure is probably St Herculanus, who is perhaps portrayed using a portrait of Jacopo Vagnucci.  (This figure does not have a halo. but a drawing in the British Museum on which it seems to have been based does).

Cappella dello Spirito Santo (1557-76)

The Archpriest Leone Baglioni commissioned this chapel off the right wall of the Duomo from Galeazzo Alessi.  The work on its construction stopped in 1559 when Baglioni died, and the chapel was still unfinished in 1572 when Alessi also died.  (See also the page on the Exterior of the Duomo).

The chapel was ceded to Polidoro Oradini in 1573.  The inscription on the external architrave records that he completed it according to the will of his brother, Giulio Oradini (who had been Bishop of Perugia in 1562-4 and who had died in 1573).  The neo-Gothic decoration (1849) obscures Alessi's original design. 

Pentecost (ca. 1576)

Cesare Nebbia painted the altarpiece , which depicts the Holy Spirit descending on the Virgin, the Apostles, St Mary Magdalene and another female saint.  The bearded man to the right of St Mary Magdalene (the only figure without a flame above his head) is a portrait of Bishop Giulio Oradini. 

Baptistery (1855)

Bishop Gioacchino Pecci built this chapel off the right wall (next to the Cappella dello Spirito Santo).  This was originally the site of a side door that Bishop Pecci closed in 1850, thereby eliminating what had been a convenient short cut used by pedestrians. 

Altare della Madonna del Verde (1477), which was dismantled as part of these changes, was re-erected on the back wall of the new baptistery (illustrated above) in 1855.  The altar was named for a venerated fresco (early 14th century) known as the Madonna del Verde which is now in the Museo Capitolare (see the page on Art from the Earlier Church).

Crucifix (1656)

This crucifix by Cristoforo Fournier, which is now on the left wall, was originally in the apse.

Frescoes (1868)

These frescoes by Mariano Piervittori depict:
  1. angels (in the cupola, one of which is illustrated here); and

  2. monochrome scenes from the life of St John the Baptist (in the three lunettes). 

Unfortunately, they are seriously deteriorated.

Baptism of Christ (1876)

This fresco in the space left by the removal of the earlier fresco from the Altare della Madonna del Verde (see above) is by Domenico Bruschi.

Read more:

R. Caracciolo, “Jacopo Vagnucci” Vescovo e Committente d’ Arte nel Secondo Quattrocento”, (2008), Perugia

R. Caracciolo, “Il Santo Anello: Leggenda, Storia, Arte, Devozione”, (2005), Perugia

Duomo: Main page    Earlier Church     Exterior      Interior      Chapels.

Return to Monuments of Perugia