Key to Umbria: Terni

San Francesco (1265-88)

Umbria:  Home   Cities    History    Art    Hagiography    Contact


Terni:  Home    History    Art    Saints    Walks    Drives    Monuments    Museums 

According to tradition, Bishop Ranierio gave St Francis a small oratory here that was dedicated as San Cassiano.   In 1259, Pope Alexander IV gave Bishop Filippo permission to build a new church on the site and granted indulgences to those contributing to the construction.  Work began in 1265, and it seems to have been complete by 1288 when Pope Nicholas IV granted further indulgences, probably for the decoration of the new building.   The site, which was probably outside the old city walls, was enclosed when the circuit was extended in ca. 1354.

The church originally comprised a single nave and transept with a semi-circular apse, similar in plan to the upper church of San Francesco in Assisi.  The two aisles were added in 1437.  A chapel dedicated as the Cappella di San Bernardino was built to the right of the transept in 1452, just two years after the canonisation of St Bernardino of Siena.  Alberico and Pietro Camporeali built the Cappella della Santa Croce to the left of the transept in 1525 (see below). 

The complex was suppressed in 1860, at which point the convent was adapted for use as a school.  The church was still used on occasions until 1888, when it was closed on safety grounds.  Luigi Lanzi organised its restoration in 1898-1900. 

The church was badly damaged during the bombardment of the Second World War, when the Cappella di San Bernardino was destroyed.  The rest of the church was restored in 1945, at which point all of its surviving Baroque decoration was removed. 

The complex passed to the Salesians of St John Bosco in 1927, and they remained here until 2002.  The church recently re-opened after another major restoration. 


The façade clearly reflects the building history of the church.  Its central part preserves the original portal and rose windows, although the traceries of the latter have been destroyed.  The side wings and their bifore windows date to 1437, when the aisles were added.  The side portals were opened in the facade in 1532.

Two cylindrical buttresses are visible on the right wall.  The campanile (1345) is by Angelo da Orvieto

The remains of the original cloister can be seen in the adjacent courtyard. 


The high altar (15th century) was restored in 1928.

The pulpit (15th century) on the 3rd column on left was reconstructed after the damage done in the Second World War.  It incorporates a lovely figure of an angel at its base.

Only one of what must have been many funerary inscriptions survives: this brown marble inscription on [which pilaster ??] records the death of “Liberati de Damiis” in 1492.

Blessed Simone dei Camporeali (early 14th century)

This fresco is on the right wall between the outer and inner doors of the left entrance (seen from outside).  It  depicts one of the early followers of St Francis in Terni.  When the fresco was painted, this wall was part of the cloister.   The inscription below says that it was recovered from under the plaster in 1668 and commemorates two descendants of Blessed Simone: Giovanni Maria and Vincenzo Camporeali.

Christ and Pope Urban V (late 14th century)

This fresco fragment is on the counter-façade, to the right of the main entrance.  The work is sometimes attributed to the Maestro del Trittico di Terni.  Pope Urban V stands in front of a figure of Christ in judgement, and holds an image of SS Peter and Paul.

SS Quiricus, Leonard and a female martyr (15th century)

These frescoes are on the inner surface of the 1st pillar on the left. 
  1. St Quiricus is depicted with nails driven into his body before his martyrdom.

  2. St Leonard the patron saint of prisoners, holds a pair of handcuffs.

Body of Christ (15th century)

This marble statue, which usually lies under the altar in the chapel at the base of the campanile (to the left of the apse) is carried in procession each Good Friday.

St Lucy (15th century)

This polychrome statue, which is in the crossing, on the right, was first documented in San Francesco in the late 19th century.  It probably came from Santa Lucia

Crucifix (20th century)

The painted Crucifix above the high altar is a copy by the local artist Piero Milardi of a work by Giotto.

Cappella Paradisi

There is a separate page on the Cappella Paradisi, which is to the right of the apse.

Cappella della Santa Croce (1553)

The Confraternita della Santa Croce built this chapel on the left to house a relic of the True Cross that Pietro Camporeali gave to the church in 1525.   Pope Sixtus IV had given the relic to Alberico Camporeali (his secretary and Pietro’s father) in 1473.  The chapel now serves as the sacristy.

Reliquary of the Holy Cross (15th century)

This ivory reliquary that originally housed the relic from the True Cross was stolen from the church in January 2008.  It had been stolen before, in 1983, but was recovered on that occasion.

Reliquary of the Holy Cross (16th century)

The inscription on this this gilded silver reliquary records: “CARITATE CONFRATUM SANCTISSIME CRUCIS HOC TABERNACULUM FACTUM EST” (the Confraternity of the Holy Cross commissioned this tabernacle).  It is displayed at the centre of the sacristy. 

Discovery of the True Cross (1575)

The Confraternita della Santa Croce commissioned this altarpiece from Sebastiano Fiori da Arezzo

Adoration of the shepherds (17th century)

This altarpiece by Cesare Sermei was originally in the Cappella di San Bernardino.  It was damaged when that chapel was destroyed in the Second World War.

Art from the Church

The following works from San Francesco are now in the Pinacoteca Comunale

Crucifix (15th century)

This crucifix was in San Francesco by 1876, but it could have been moved to this location in the 1860s, after the suppression of the Capuchin convent of San Martino (which was destroyed in 1943) or the Observant Franciscan convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.  It is attributed to Giovanni Tedesco.  The polychrome wooden figure of Christ is detachable and has moveable arms, which suggests that it was removed from the cross and taken in procession at Easter.

Pala dei Francescani (1483-5)

The inscription at the bottom of the central panel of this  triptych records that Father Dionisio di Giovanni, the Procurator for the friars of San Francesco, commissioned the work in 1485.  It survived in its original frame on the high altar of the church even after the suppression of the convent, but was removed in 1896.  The artist responsible for it was a matter of much debate until 1985, when a contract dated 1483 between Dionisio di Giovanni and Pier Matteo d' Amelia was found in the city archives. 

Proceed to Cappella Paradisi

Return to Monuments in Terni.

Return to Art in Terni.

Return to the Walk I.