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Name and Bones
The Church of S. Pellegrino di Gualdo


[image ALT: zzz. It is the church of S. Pellegrino in S. Pellegrino di Gualdo, Umbria (central Italy).]

S. Pellegrino in 2000.

For a close‑up of the little square carving over the door, see the Churches of S. Pellegrino orientation page.

One day in the year 1004 a wandering pilgrim on his way to Rome and Montecassino walked into the town of Castrum Contranense: he was refused lodging, got caught in a particularly bad storm, took shelter under a small bridge in the area, and died during the night. That would be the end of the story, were it not that the same night a couple villagers had dreamt about him, and the next day, feeling uneasy, let their dreams lead them to the place where they found him: miraculous enough to make him into a saint, whose body was taken up and buried in the village, and eventually in a church built over his tomb: since they didn't so much as know his name, they called him "San Pellegrino", the Holy Pilgrim. There is nothing certain about the story, except of course that the name of this church has been S. Pellegrino for a very long time; it appears in surviving documents as early as 1288, and the village now takes its name from the church.

The building we see here, however, is not the first church but a successor: it is thought to date to the 14c although traces of the earlier church are found in the sacristy, on top of which the square belfry was built in 1901, spurious crenellations and all. The Pilgrim's bones are still here, in a semi-underground chapel, housed in a marble urn. An inscription was placed near them in the 19c, but has already vanished; it read:

Ad perpetuam rei memoriam. Hic jacet corpus S. Peregrini confessoris et patroni huius loci, cuius sacra lypsana kalendis maii anni MDCCCXXXVII Franciscus Aloysius Piervissani, episcopus Nucerinus, solemniter reposuit.

As a perpetual commemoration of the event: Here lies the body of S. Peregrinus, confessor and patron saint of this place, whose sacred relics Francesco Luigi Piervissani, bishop of Nocera, solemnly placed here once again on May 1, 1837.

The church was closed during my sole pass thru town, which I very much regret: the walls are pretty much covered with 14c and 15c frescoes, and in the chapel specially devoted to S. Pellegrino, some ex‑votos are felt to be by Matteo da Gualdo, quite plausibly since after all he was a local.


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Page updated: 27 May 09