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Montefalco: history and traditions


Thanks to its geographic position, the city of Montefalcois also known as the "Balcony of Umbria". From its lookout points you can admire the surrounding cities of Perugia, Assisi, Spello, Foligno, Trevi, Spoleto, Gualdo Cattaneo and Bevagna. Further in the distance the slopes of the Apennines, Mt. Subasio and the Martani Mounains also rise up. However, what captures the onlooker's imagination are the nearby hills covered with olive groves and vineyards. The compact circle of its medieval walls, occasionally interspersed by towers, is opened up by the gates of Frederick II, St. Agostino (the tower with the Ghibelline battlements), and Camiano and those of the fortress and St. Leonardo.

In the Middle Ages the town was also known by the name of Coccorone. According to popular belief the city, which in the 16th century was already defined as ''ancient'', was named after the man believed to have founded the city, the Roman Senator Marcus Curio. Others, however, attribute the name to the Greek word oros, meaning mountain. Between 1239 and 1240 the town was given its current name of Montefalco, most likely after the hawks of Emperor Frederick II, the Duke of Swabia, a skilled expert of the art of falconry and the author of "The Treatise on Falconry" (De arte venandi cum avibus), who stayed in Coccorone from the 9th to the 13th of February, 1240.


Be sure to visit the church museum of St. Francis, which offers an overview of the history, culture and tradition of Montefalco.Built between 1335 and 1338 by the friars minor,, masses continued to be held there until 1863, when the church became the property of the city.

 

Since 1895 it has served as home to the city museum. In 1990 the museum was divided into three exhibition areas: the former church, known throughout the world for its frescoes of the life of St. Francis by Benozzo Gozzoli (1452) but which also houses the Nativity by Il Perugino and frescoes of the 15th-century Umbrian school the art gallery,featuring numerous small works by the painter Francesco Melanzio (a Montefalco native), Antoniazzo Romano, from the Workshop of Niccolò and Melozzo da Forlì, in addition to paintings from the Umbrian school from the 14th to the 18th centuries and a collection of crafts; and the crypt, iwith its collection of archaeological artefacts, sculptures and fragments from various eras.

The street outside the St. Francis church museum leads directly to the beautiful round piazza where theMunicipal Hall 13th-14th century), the former church of San Filippo Neri (sec. XVIII)(18th century) now a theatre, the oratory of Santa Maria 13th century) and important examples of noble residences from the 16th century stand. In the oldest part of the Medieval village, near the Camiano Gate, is the tiny church of St. Lucia (late 12th century). Also be sure to visit the church of Sant'Agostino of the Augustine friars, adorned by various painters such as Ambrogio Lorenzetti and Bartolomeo Caporali, and the church of Sant'Illuminata (16th century) decorated with precious frescoes by Francesco Melanzio and other Umbrian painters. In front of Sant'Illuminata you will find the church of San Leonardo, adjacent to a monastery of the Sisters of St. Clare where you can admire a large painting by Melanzio.

 

On the same street, visitors can discover the architectural jewel of this part of the city where the monasteries are found: the magnificent construction dedicated to St. Clare of Montefalco (1258-1309). The Sanctuary contains the relics of the saint and the chapel of Santa Croce, decorated in 1333 with extraordinary frescoes from the Umbrian school. Just outside the walls is the convent of San Fortunato, well known for its works by Benozzo Gozzoli and Tiberio D'Assisi; the sanctuary of the Madonna della Stella with valuable 19th-century paintings, and the church of Santa Maria di Turrita, rich with devotional frescoes from the 14th to the 16th centuries

 
   
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