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The Madonna del Campione

[image ALT: A small two-story stuccoed building, with a gently sloping tiled roof. On the one-lane street it fronts, its main door is surmounted by a broken pediment, centered over which a simple rose window; toward the viewer, a much smaller and completely unadorned strictly functional door. It is the façade of the church of the Madonna del Campione, in Todi, Umbria (central Italy).]

On a quiet back street in Todi we find this unassuming little church, where for a time a painting it housed was central to the piety and civic pride of the city.

The fresco depicted Joseph and Mary, heads bowed in prayer over the Baby Jesus; in a niche in the vaulted space under the Palazzo Comunale, where it had long watched over the dealings of the daily market, it had attracted no particular attention. But on July 24, 1796, on the eve of the troubled times that within a very few years were to make Todi and Umbria an occupied country under the control of Napoleonic France, it was reported that the Holy Infant's parents had opened their eyes: the now miraculous image was moved to this church where for generations it was the focus of a yearly procession, and the centennial of the miracle was marked by a series of events, the linchpin of which, somewhat incongruously, was the dedication of Todi's very secular theater, celebrating as much as anything the solid prosperity of the town under the new secular régime of the country: the contradictions of 19c Italy, pious and republican, in a nutshell.

[image ALT: A vaulted hall, about 5 m across and only slightly less tall, ending in a smaller area marked off by a semi-circular arch. Along the sides, a series of lower round arches are applied to the walls; the two rows of wooden pews down the hall mark it as a church. It is a view of most of the interior of the church of the Madonna del Campione, in Todi, Umbria (central Italy).]

Unfortunately, a disastrous fire tore thru the church on July 4, 1904, and the miraculous fresco was unrecoverably damaged; thus, despite appearances, the baroque interior of the church dates no earlier than 1930, and the oil painting now above the altar (detail) is a token replacement, executed in the year of the fire by one Alessandro Zucchetti.

[image ALT: The upper part of the door to the church of the Madonna del Campione, in Todi, Umbria (central Italy). It is of stone, in the style of the sixteenth century, and is crowned by a simple broken pediment, the central item of which is a square block of stone carved with a sun-and-IHS symbol. The whole is surmounted by a Latin cross on three stylized round-topped mountains, these latter of the type very commonly seen thruout Italy.]

Despite my collection of rather detailed reference works on Todi, I've been altogether unable to say why the main door should affirm that the church is under the invocation of St. Bonaventure; the obvious and probable explanation is that, once, it was — the street on which it fronts is still after all the Via S. Bonaventura — but nowhere do I find it explicitly stated, and surprises are frequent with churches. Nonetheless, our inscription is categorical:

· Domino · BONAVENTVRÆ · Dicatvm ·

Dedicated to St. Bonaventure

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Site updated: 31 Mar 09