Church of our lady of tears and the Perugino

The church was built between 1487and 1522 in the place where, it is told, on the evening of August 5th, 1485, a Madonna painted in a wall shrine, shed tears of blood.

The image was frescoed on a wall of the home of Diotallevi di Antonio on October 3, 1483, the feast day of St, Francis, the effigy of which was lost due to the construction of an altar which preserved only the Madonna and Child. On August 5 and 6, 1485 blood tears were seen trickling from the Virgin’s eyes.


The Umbrian Renaissance

This was hailed as a miracle and a growing number of people started coming from every corner of Trevi, neighbouring villages and distant lands. On the seventeenth of the same month the construction of a chapel began to preserve the image, while miracles followed “multi et infitini” as notary Ser Francesco Mugnoni wrote, adding to his precious testimony that “I, Francesco saw with my own eyes”.

On May 26, 1487 the first stone of the temple was laid and, amidst a succession of difficulties of sorts, it was completed in 1522. This is one of the most beautiful buildings of the Umbrian Renaissance. The elegant portal on the facade was sculpted in 1495 by Giovanni di Gian Pietro from Venice.

Inside, the walls are decorated with chapels in the form of shrines and by monumental tombs of the most illustrious personalities of the Conti Valenti, the most representative noble family of late Renaissance and Baroque Trevi.

This is one of the most beautiful buildings of the Umbrian Renaissance

The right wall hosts the Chapel of St. Ubaldus and the Chapel of the Magi, frescoed by the Perugino in 1521. As well as the adoration of the Magi, it portrays also Sts. Peter and Paul and above, in the medallions, the Annunciation. The right transept hosts the baroque altar of the Madonna of the Tears, in the centre of which is the image of the Our Lady and Child, painted by a local painter in 1485.

This image, according to tradition, shed tears. The left transept hosts the Chapel dedicated to St. Francis and decorated by Giovanni di Pietro, known as “Spagna”, in 1520. At the back we find the image of the Body of Christ Transported and various saints, amongst whom St. Francis; to the side, St. Joseph and St. Ubaldus, St. Augustine is in the lunette.

In the external gores, the figures of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. On the left wall, as you enter the church, is the Chapel of the Resurrection with the prophets Jonah and David. The highly decorative external candelabra, are adorned with human figures representing demons and the damned, derived by Luca Signorelli from the Duomo of Orvieto.


The frescos, of the school of Perugino are dated 1541

The frescos, of the school of Perugino are dated 1541. The origin of the church derives from a miraculous event linked to the image of the Virgin.: the fresco, of modest craftsmanship, is still present in its original position over the transept altar on the left of the sanctuary, represents Our Lady with Child and originally included, on the right, the figure of St. Francis of Assisi, which has since been lost. The devotional icon was commissioned by a Trevi citizen, Diotallevi di Antonio for a wall of his home on October 3, 1483, the day before the feast of St. Francis. His home stood in the vicinity of a place called Costarella di San Costanzo, On the evening of August 5, 1485, the eyes of Our Lady were seen to shed tears of blood.

Our Lady of the Tears in Trevi is an example of Umbrian Renaissance churches with the Latin cross. The interior soars high and has a single nave with ample cross vaults. The particularity of this Marian church is expressed by its rich pictorial decoration and by the sepulchral monuments of the Valenti family. Antonio di Giorgio Marchisi of Settignano began building this sacred edifice on May 26, 1487. He was then replaced by Francesco di Pietrasanta who had previously (November 27, 1485) designed the project. It was finished in 1522. The building of the church marks a period of important changes in Trevi’s urban setting, which, in the second half of the fifteenth century saw a consistent development of private constructions, noble palaces, which changed the medieval aspect of the city.

Starting the tour from the right, one can admire: the Chapel of St. Ubaldus, a work of the Angelucci da Mevale, the Chapel of the Magi by the Perugino (1521) and in the right transept, the altar of the Madonna with a part of the fresco of 1483. As you continue to the left transept you find the Chapel of St. Charles Borromeo and the Chapel of the Transport of the Body of Christ to the Sepulchre by Giovanni di Pietro, known as “Spagna” (1520) .

Along the nave, on the left wall we find: the Chapel of St. Alphonse, formerly the Chapel of St. Catherine, and finally the Chapel of the Resurrection by Orazio Alfani. The painting of the Pietà by Benedetto Coda, which towers over this last chapel, as well as the paintings depicting St. Cecilia and St. Catherine of the chapel dedicated to St. Alphonso Maria dei Liguori and the holy water stoup, are part of the local artistic heritage. The friary that once belonged to the Lateran Canon Regulars and later to the Liquorini, has, since 1935, hosted the Pedagogical Medical Institute named after the Blessed Pietro Bonili, who tenaciously endeavored to create for assisting and treating disabled young girls.

Chapel of the Adoration of the Magi

Known also as the Chapel of the crib, or of the Epiphany. It is the most famous chapel in the church, as it was painted by Pietro Vannucci, known as the Perugino, in 1522 and is therefore one of the last works of the Master Painter.

The entire wall at the end is occupied by a most beautiful scene of the nativity with the various figures in adoration. To the sides one can see the apostles Peter and Paul. It is thought that the painting of these apostles was commissioned by the Bovara community, who had purchased the chapel, the church itself being named after St. Peter. The pictorial complex decorates the second chapel on the right wall of the church, dedicated to the Magi Kings. Pietro Perugino was in Trevi from September to December 1521.

The composition of the main scene re-elaborates the Adoration of the Three Kings of the Orient in the Oratory of the Bianchi in Città della Pieve, painted in 1504. The keystone of the arch bears the coat of arms of the Valenti noble family of Trevi.

Pietro Perugino was in Trevi from September to December 1521.

“Frescoed for the people of Bovara, the chapel of the “Epifanie seu Magorum”, which can be seen to the right of the liturgical hall, is framed by a rich architectural setting which simulates a triumphal arch and develops from the large niche to the top of the wall of the nave. Under the cornice, with its ovoli and dentils, runs a frieze with red grotesques on a yellow background.

The lateral pilasters are shaped as candelabra; the decorative structure is enriched by geometric patterns or decorations deriving from the grotesques. In the roundels of the upper section one can see the Archangel Gabriel and Our Lady of the Annunciation, and in the central section, the Adoration of the Magi. The scene portrays a simple wooden hut where Our Lady sits, with the Baby Jesus in her arms, and on her left stands St. Joseph: To the sides of the throne, two of the Kings offering cruets, while the third stands to the right of the Holy Family.

In the background, an idealized plain, surrounded by hills, and the procession following the Three Kings, amidst bucolic groups of shepherds and flocks of sheep.
The signature of the artist is visible on the throne’s dais, expressed in capital letters: PETRUS. DE. CASTRO. PLEBIS. PINXIT. Also in capital letters is the couplet praising the Virgin Mary, painted on a patch of grass at her feet: TU SOLA IN TERRIS GENITRIX ET VIRGO FUISTI/ REGINA IN CELIS. TU QUOQUE SOLA MANES. In the splays of the chapel, in two painted niches, one finds St. Peter and St. Paul respectively identified by the inscription underneath, reminiscent of Catone del Cambio.

The style of the Perugino

The new interpretation of the painting, which surfaced following a careful restoration and removal of the thick layer which dulled it, enhances the style of the Perugino, which in this phase of his activity was “concise, dry and epitomized) as he breaks up forms and separates the shades of colour, to vivify the background.

Perugino must have used cartoons in this work in Trevi to transfer the preparatory sketch of the Adoration as one can notice horizontal or T shalped paint brush marks on the margins, reference marks used for positioning, accordino to a technique already detected in Catone di Cambio and in the Adoration of the Magi in Montefalco” (Vittoria Garibaldi, Perugino, Silvana editoriale, Milan, 2004, pp. 242-244,

Chapel of St. Francis

This is located in the left arm of the transversal nave. It was frescoed by Giovanni di Pietro, known as “Spagna”, between 1518 e il 1520. The central scene portrays the Transportation to the sepulchre of the Body of Christ by the saints. In the upper quarter, Olivetan monks (with white robe) are depicted in prayer. To the sides one can see St. Joseph and St. Ubaldus.
In 1518, the rectors of the church commissioned Spagna the painting of the frescos in the Chapel of St. Francis.

he artist painted the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah, St. Augustine with the portraits of the Lateran Canons and angels, the Transportation of the Body of Christ to the Sepulchre, Sts. Ubaldus and Joseph. The museum of Trevi hosts two paintings depicting St. Cecilia and St. Catherine of Alexandria, which were originally kept in the Church of Our Lady of Tears and were painted by Giovanni di Pietro during the last decade of his activity. One can find other works of the same author in Trevi: in St. Martin’s and in the St. Francis Art Collection.

Spagna painted the Transportation of the Body of Christ to the Sepulchre inspired by a painting of Raffaello’s in the Baglioni Chapel in St. Francis in the Field, in Perugina. The scene, framed by two pilasters decorated with grotesques, is set in an open landscape with a town on the far horizon. On the left, on the background of the Golgotha, stands St. Francis. This figure, sadly quite damaged, was inserted to comply with the wishes of the testator and is significantly placed in relation to the three crosses due to the high significance which the Passion of Christ assumes in the earthly experience and in the preaching of the Saint from Assisi.

A benedictory St. Augustine is painted in the lunette surrounded by angels bearing his traditional attributes; the Lateran Canons, who commissioned the work, kneel at the Saint’s feet. The frescos in the splays of the chapel depict on the left, St. Ubaldus in bishop’s robes, portrayed here as he was a Canon Regular, and to the right, St. Joseph holding the flowered rod and the wedding ring, typical attributes of the saint’s in the Umbrian iconography and often portrayed in the churches held by the Laterans, custodians until 1350 of Our Lady’s ring.

The external wall of the chapel, framed by two tall pilasters, is adorned by a lively grotesques decoration. In the pendentive, illusionistically inserted in the roundels, are the prophets Isaiah to the left and Jeremiah to the right. Above the altar table Matteo Ugoni had a statue of St. Francis fixed with appropriate iron pins (presently kept in the Trevi Civic Museum), which was purposely sculpted by the canons to comply with the last will and testament of Dioteguardi (by Giovanna Sapori) Milan, 2004, pp. 123-129;

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