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S. Maria di Betlem

[image ALT: A wide-based triangular stone, point up, on which are carved in high relief two standing angels facing each other and together holding a chalice. On either side of the stone, a smaller tondo with a human head carved also in high relief. It is the tympanum over the main door in the façade of the church of S. Maria di Betlem in Foligno, Umbria (central Italy).]

This is the only photo onsite of this small church, which has never been open on my passes thru Foligno: and the photo at first is a puzzle; why should the little tympanum over the door to a church called St. Mary of Bethlehem show two angels adoring a pyx, the vessel that holds the hosts at Mass?

History as always is the key: before 1672, when it was taken over by the nuns of the order of St. Mary of Bethlehem, this church had been titled Corpus Christi (SS. Corpo di Cristo); at which point this 14c carving makes perfect sense.

If the new owners kept the outside of the church the way it was, they significantly reworked the interior, which is an exercise in the delicate style of burgeoning Rococo, just emerging from the Baroque; for a couple of pictures and further information, see the comune of Foligno's page on the church.

The nuns moved again, in 1981, to a brand‑new church in Sant' Eraclio, a southern suburb of Foligno: the rather striking modern building is very visible to the east of the Flaminia, to the right of the highway as you come from Spoleto. And yes, their old home is closed to the public except on rare occasions, for special events and exhibits.

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Page updated: 28 Aug 14