Key to Umbria: Spoleto

Blessed Gregory of Spoleto  (Feast day ?)

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Detail from the Madonna and Child with

St Clement I and the Blessed Gregory (1476-8)

(see below)

There seems to be some confusion between two hermits of this name who lived in Monteluco:

  1. The wooden sarcophagus of the earlier Blessed Gregory is documented in the Duomo in 1348.

  2. The later Blessed Gregory was a Franciscan friar at San Francesco di Monteluco, where he died in 1473.  He had acquired a relic known as the Sacro Chiodo (a nail that had been used in the Crucifixion of Christ) and this subsequently found its way to the church of San Domenico.  Bishop Paolo Sanvitale ordered the official recognition of his relics in 1597.

Gregory was buried in a chapel in the Duomo that was the subject of an extensive programme of decoration in 1486-8.  It was demolished as part of the re-modeling of the Duomo in 1785-92, but two items of its decoration survive:

  1. the sarcophagus (1486-8) in which the relics were housed, which is now in Room 5 of the Museo Nazionale del Ducato di Spoleto; and

  1. the altarpiece of the Madonna and Child with St Clement I and the Blessed Gregory, which is now on the right wall of the left transept of the Duomo.

These items throw light on the hagiography of this second Blessed Gregory:

  1. The relief on the front of the sarcophagus depicts him in prayer outside his hermitage as an angel appears to him bearing a scroll.  The long inscription says that he lived a celibate life as a hermit and that he performed miracles after his death. 

  2. The altarpiece is now in an ornate frame that bears his arms of Bishop Paolo Sanvitale.  This probably dates to 1597, when Bishop Sanvitale recognised the authenticity of the relics.  The inscription says that Blessed Gregory died in the company of angels in extreme old age in 1473 in a hermitage on Monteluco. 

An altarpiece (ca. 1792) of Blessed Gregory and Angels  by Pietro Labruzzi, which is on the 4th altar on the right of the Duomo,  depicts the Blessed Gregory as a pilgrim to whom one of the angels offers the relic.  This  altar probably marks the location of the chapel that originally housed the relics of the Blessed Gregory.