Key to Umbria: Todi

Blessed Jacopone da Todi (25th December)

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Image above Tomb of Jacopone da Todi

Crypt, San Fortunato

Jacopo Benedicti or Benedetti was born at Todi in ca. 1228.  He studied law (probably at Bologna) and then returned to Todi to work as an advocate.  In ca. 1266 he married Vanna, a noblewoman who was perhaps the daughter of Bernardino, Count of Collemedio (Coldimezzo near Todi).  However, she died two years later when a raised platform on which she sat during a feast gave way.  When Jacopone reached her side, she was already dying, and when he opened her dress, he found a hair shirt beneath. The shock of his wife's death and the evidence of her secret penance made made such an impression on him that he abandoned his profession and became a Franciscan tertiary.  His behaviour was initially tinged with insanity, but in ca. 1278 he was sufficiently recovered for the Franciscans at San Fortunato to accept him as a lay brother.

The lasting fame of the Blessed Jacapone rests on his poems, (which were almost all in his native Umbrian dialect) and his hymns, the most famous of all is the carol Stabat Mater Dolorosa, an outpouring of his love for the Virgin Mary and the Crucified Christ that he wrote shortly before he died.

The sympathies of the Blessed Jacapone lay with the Spiritual Franciscans.  In 1294, he was among those who received permission from Pope Celestine V to live separately from the other friars so that they could observe the Franciscan Rule in its primitive form.  However, Pope Boniface VIII reversed the privileges and subjected the Spirituals once more to their regular superiors.  Blessed Jacopone signed the manifesto of Cardinals Giacomo and Pietro Colonna against Boniface VIII in 1297, and he also wrote scurrilous verse that criticised him.  He was therefore imprisoned at Palestrina and excommunicated, and released only after the death of Boniface VIII  in 1303.   Now an old man, he withdrew to Collazzone (probably to the convent of the Poor Clares of San Lorenzo) where he died in 1306. 


The Blessed Jacopone was originally buried in the Monastero di Montecristo.  In 1433 Bishop Antonio da Anagni retrieved and formally recognised the relics, before exposing them for veneration in the nearby Chiesa dell'Ospedale della Carità.  He then enclosed them in a wooden sarcophagus  and translated them to the sacristy of San Fortunato

Bishop Angelo Cesi translated the relics to a new tomb in the crypt in 1596, after a procession through the city that lasted for three hours.   (The relics of the five patron saints of Todi were also translated to the crypt in this ceremony).  The epitaph on the new tomb reads:

Ossa Beati Jacoponi De Benedictis Tudertini.

Fratris Ordinis Minorum

Qui stultus propter Christum

Nova mundum arte delusit

Et caelum rapuit

Obdormivit in Domino Die XXV Martii An. Dom. MCCXCVI.

Ang. Caes. Episc. Tudert.

Hic collocavit ann MDXCVI

This translates: "Here lie the bones of Blessed Jacopone dei Benedetti da Todi OFM who, having gone mad with love of Christ, deceived the world in a new way and took Heaven by storm”.  It records the date of death (incorrectly) as 1296, and says that Bishop Angelo Cesi placed the bones here in 1596.

The portrait of the Blessed Jacopone above the monument is by Ferraù Fenzoni da Faenza (il Faenzone).


Bishop Angelo Desi failed in his attempt to have the Blessed Jacopone included in the Roman Martyrology in 1595.  The municipal council of Todi pressed for his canonisation in 1628, and the chapter of the cathedral of renewed these efforts in 1676.  These and all subsequent attempts (the last of which was in 1869) failed, largely because of the part that Jacopone had played in the Colonna rebellion against Boniface VIII.  

However, the Blessed Jacopone is inscribed in the Franciscan Martyrology under the date 25th December.

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