[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail: Bill Thayer 
[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

Building and Rebuilding:
The Church of S. Nicola

[image ALT: A small stone building, not much wider than its arched neoclassical door, and one and a half stories high. It is in somewhat ruinous condition, with a few vines, some moss, and even two or three tufts of grass growing on the façade. It is a partial view of the church of S. Nicola in Monteleone di Spoleto, Umbria (central Italy).]

S. Nicola sits just below the crest of the hill of Monteleone, in the oldest part of the town; and though our first mention of this building in surviving records only dates to 1310, it is easy to imagine that the local population, and its church, huddled around its protecting castello much earlier than that.

Umbria would eventually consolidate under the rule of the Popes, who brought peace. Gone were the sudden raids of petty warlords, that bane of the early Middle Ages; and as elsewhere, with its new security, the village expanded down the hill, bringing a shift in its center of gravity: the dominant church in Monteleone today, is S. Francesco — both many times larger, and much more central to the expanded modern town.

When I visited in 2004, the terziere S. Nicola, the uppermost of Monteleone's three official neighborhoods, was nearly abandoned, and the church was firmly closed, looking even somewhat damaged. Yet just 25 years before, when the guidebook to Monteleone was written, it was described as the town's parish church.

While S. Francesco, halfway down the slope of town, has stood essentially undamaged since its construction in the Middle Ages, S. Nicola, as you can see, is hardly medieval: a catastrophic earthquake flattened the old church on January 14, 1703, and today's church is the result of a reconstruction that started in 1707, the funds being raised from local residents of course but also from the community of Monteleonesi living in Rome, among them some high papal dignitaries. Finally though, the chapter of S. Gregorio Magno in Spoleto [a map marker], the parent church of S. Nicola, had to step in, deciding that the work was important enough to warrant selling off their property in a much smaller place, the tiny hamlet of Eggi [a map marker].

Fast-forward to the present. I suspect a resonance factor that amplifies seismic shocks on the top of the hill: it may not be the safest part of town. Monteleone has been hit by two major earthquakes in the past few decades: Sept. 19, 1979 (just as our guidebook was going to press), and Sept. 26, 1997. Either or both may explain the condition of the church, ruinous once again, and of much of the terziere; although I also saw signs of relatively vigorous rebuilding.

Here, though, on the house next to the church (pulled-back view), is a witness to the earlier rebuilding:

[image ALT: A horizontal rectangular stone plaque bearing a 6‑line inscription in capital letters; on a house adjoining the church of S. Nicola in Monteleone di Spoleto, Umbria (central Italy). The inscription is transcribed and translated on this webpage.]

eminentissimi · principis
Gasparis · Cardinalis · de · Carpineo
Antonivs · Piersanctes
constabilivit · adavxit

Under the auspices
of the most eminent prince
Gaspare Cardinal Carpegna
Antonio Piersantes
reinforced and enlarged [this building]

[image ALT: The architrave above an arched stone door; in the center, a medallion about 20 cm in diameter with the head of a mitered bishop. It is a detail of the main, or east, door of the church of S. Nicola in Monteleone di Spoleto, Umbria (central Italy).]

A further little mystery: that same guidebook describes the main door of S. Nicola as bearing an inscription on the architrave:

Divo Nicolao patriae et pauperum patrono — 1761

[To St. Nicholas, patron of this town and of the poor]

but there is no sign of such an inscription here: on the main door, above, just an attractive small carved head of the good bishop S. Nicholas; on the side door, the familiar sunburst with the monogram of Christ that was the sign of S. Bernardino da Siena. There must be a third door I never saw, although I thought I poked around pretty carefully.

[image ALT: A simple neoclassical architrave, with a carving of the sun in the center, on which are inscribed the letters IHS, and the upper part of the stone door to which it belongs. It is the west door of the church of S. Nicola in Monteleone di Spoleto, Umbria (central Italy).]

Se sei della zona e/o hai delle informazioni più ampie su questa chiesa, scrivimi per favore!

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 26 Oct 18