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The church of San Francesco

The greatest glory of Montefalco is the monumental church of San Francesco, now part of the Museum Complex of San Francesco.
The church was built between 1335 and 1338 by the minor friars and was the third Franciscan settlement in the Montefalco area, the first within the city walls. Officiated by the friars until 1863, in that year the church became the property of the municipality of Montefalco and in 1895 became the seat of the Civic Museum. The rectangular plan church has a central nave that ends in a pentagonal apse, with two rectangular plan chapels to the sides. The lateral nave was created in the seventeenth century with the knocking down of the lateral walls of the individual chapels built starting in the fourteenth century. The pictorial surface was frescoed between the fourteenth and sixteenth century by famous artists, including Benozzo Gozzoli and Pietro Vannucci, known as Perugino.

Chapel of the Assunta

The chapel was painted in the first quarter of the fifteenth century by Giovanni di Corraduccio, a famous Foligno painter. The fresco covers the Chapel ceiling, under arch and pillars. The decoration of the lateral and back walls was lost due to the opening of the entrance door, connecting to the adjacent convent, in the sixteenth century.

Chapel of the Crucifix

Here the decoration is completely lost and the chapel hosts an altar crucifix in tempera on a shaped panel, which depicts the Crucified Christ in the centre with Saint Francis at his feet, the Saviour at the top and, in the panels, half-length representations of the Virgin and Saint John. This work is attributed to an Umbrian painter who was active in Assisi and Umbria between the mid thirteenth century and the first half of the fourteenth.

Chapel of San Bernardino

Frescoed around 1461, perhaps by the Spoleto painter Jacopo di Vinciolo and collaborators, the chapel presents scenes from the life of Saint Bernardino and other saints. On the vault, the Four Doctors of the Church were painted, of which only Saint Jerome remains.

Chapel of San Girolamo

The chapel was frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli in 1452 and was the painter's last work in Montefalco. The patron might have been the Montefalco notary Girolamo di Ser Giovanni Battista de Filippis. Over time, the chapel underwent many changes, including the opening of the door on the right wall. The back wall presents a fictive polyptych with the Madonna Enthroned between Saints, topped by a lunette with the Crucifixion. The vault depicts the Four Evangelists.

Counter-façade

On the left side, recently relocated after restoration work on the structural part, one finds the painted and carved wooden choir. The wooden part might have been the work of a local artisan active in the first half of the seventeenth century, whereas the painted panels can be attributed to an unknown Umbrian painter. In 1503, on the right side of the Counter-façade, Pierto Vannucci, known as Perugino, painted an aedicule with a central niche decorated with fictive architecture and depicting the Annunciation, God in Glory with Angels and the Nativity, the pictorial quality of which leaves no doubt as to authorship. The complex perspectival plan is constituted by the open structure of the space, which acts as a frame for a clear landscape characteristic of the artist’s mature phase.

Niche of Sant'Andrea

The fresco of the Madonna and Child Enthroned between Saints Andrew and Bonaventura da Bagnoregio can be dated to around 1510 and can be attributed to Tiberi d'Assisi, an artist influenced by Perugino and Pinturicchio.

Niche of Sant'Antonio da Padova

Frescoed in the first half of the fifteenth century by Jacopo di Vinciolo, it presents a Crucifixion and scenes from the life of the Saint. The central image of the Saint recalls Benozzo Gozzoli's model in the Chapel of San Girolamo, with the fictive polyptych.

Bontadosi Chapel

With a square plan and cupola, it was commissioned by Clemente Bontadosi in 1589. The fresco decoration, which can be attributed to Ascensidonio Spacca and dates to the end of the sixteenth century, represents, on the altarpiece, the Immaculate Conception with saints Francis and Anthony and the donors and, in the wall paintings, the lives of the Virgin and the Saints. The monumental façade is topped by the patron's family coat of arms.

Chapel of the Passion

Frescoed by Giovanni di Corraduccio with stories of the Passion, Saints and Prophets. The paintings date to between 1415 and 1420 and the main image of the cycle, today in fragmentary state, is the Crucifixion, represented according to the topology of the “Holy Face” of Lucca. di Lucca.

Apse

Pentagonal in plan, with a ribbed vault resting on figured brackets, it is preceded by a carved, painted and gilded pergola commissioned by Niccolò Zuccarini. The choir, constituting by sixteen wooden stalls, is undocumented but dates to the late nineteenth century. The apse was decorated in its entirety by Benozzo Gozzoli in 1452 with events from the life of Saint Francis, Saints and Personages from the Franciscan Order. These frescoes were the first extraordinary evidence of Gozzoli's achievement of the status of an independent master, having previously worked with Beato Angelico. Today, the fresco cycle, which survived the 1997 earthquake, is in a fully legible state thanks to an expert restoration completed in 2000. The frescoes were commissioned by Fra' Jacopo Mactioli da Montefalco, the prior of the monastery. The twenty episodes from the life of the Saint are narrated within twelve scenes arranged on three registers. The narration proceeds from left to right, starting from below. The apse vaults are decorated with vegetable motifs, figures of Franciscan Saints and the Glory of Saint Francis.

First register:

1. The Birth of Saint Francis: è represented in a stable (a clear analogy to the birth of Christ); Christ as a pilgrim at the door of Saint Francis; Homage of the honest man to the young Francis.

2. The saint giving his mantle to a poor man; Christ appearing in a dream to the Saint in a building full of shields bearing the cross.

3. Saint Francis renouncing worldly goods.

4. The Virgin's prayer of intercession to Christ in Judgement; Meeting of Saint Francis and Saint Dominic in Rome in front of the Vatican Basilica.

Middle register:

5. Innocent III sees Saint Francis in a dream holding up the Lateran Church; Pope Honorius III approving Franciscan rule.

6. Saint Francis kneeling beside Saint Sylvester, who is banishing the demons from Arezzo.

7. Saint Francis praying to the birds near Bevagna; Saint Francis blessing the City of Montefalco and its inhabitants.

8. Episodes dedicated to the lord of Celano.

Third register:

9. The Nativity at Greggio.

10. The trial by fire before the Sultan.

11. Saint Francis receives the stigmata on Mount Verna.

12. Death of the Saint.

Above the choir, in a horizontal band, there are twenty medallions with the portraits of illustrious Franciscans. In the three central medallions, just below the double-lancet window, we can recognise, from left to right, Petrarch with the Canzoniere in his hand, Dante with the Divine Comedy and Giotto painting a Madonna and Child.

Chapel of the Annunciation

Frescoed by Giovanni di Corraduccio and his workshop around the middle of the third decade of the fifteenth century, Christ and the Evangelists are depicted. Until 1499, the chapel was used as a sacristy.

Chapel of Sant'Antonio Abate

Frescoed with events from the life of Saint Anthony Abbot and Saints and a Crucifixion with Saint Francis, it testifies to the popularity of the Saint around in the fifteenth century. The attribution is not certain, but the most reliable theory is that it was decorated by Andrea del Cagno, who worked in Montefalco around the mid-fifteenth century.