Perugia

The church of San Francesco al Prato

map thumbnail


Tourist information and welcome office
Piazza Matteotti, 18 - Loggia dei Lanari - 06121 Perugia
info@iat.perugia.it
The Church of san Francesco al Prato is flanked on the left by the San Bernardino Oratory and it is in Piazza San Francesco, at the end of Via dei Priori in Perugia. 
 The church is located in one of the most characteristic areas of the city, near the Etruscan Trasimena Door so named because it is in the direction of the Trasimeno lake and Cortona town. The visit to church with the adjoining Renaissance oratory, work of the sculptor Agostino di Duccio,is  strongly recommended as well as a  visit to the Santa Susanna neighborhood.Here it  is possible to admire the important noble residences and the narrow winding streets surrounding the old town.  It was founded by Franciscan minors in the XIII century, in the shape of the of St. Francis in Assisi Upper building. Since its creation the church was imposed to the devotion of the most important families in the city who built here their tombs and turned it into the real “pantheon of Perugia”. During the XIV century the monastery was place for the famous “Studium” where the popes Sixtus IV and Julius II got their training.  The church has a single nave ending with a polygonal apse. Between the left side and the transept, in the middle of the XV century, the oratory of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Brotherhood was built. It was covered with inlaid white and pink marble which retained a banner of the Virgin of Misericordia, made by Mariano of Anthony and Benedict Bonfigli during the plague of 1464. The banner is now in San Bernardino Oratory.  With the internal division of Franciscan friars in Grey friars and Observants, San Francesco al Prato became the Grey friars seat,  while the Observants had their headquarter in San Francesco in Monteripido. This church, so famous and rich of masterpieces, however, was the victim of numerous static problems since a few years after its construction.  Since the XV century, consolidation and restoration works became necessary until the church was fully restored and designed by Pietro Carattoli in the XVIII century. But the high weight of the new buttresses, instead of helping the old Gothic structure, accelerated the collapse of the hill. Less than a century later the intervention of Carattoli it was thus forced to demolish the dome, the vaults of the nave and transept and part of the apse walls. In 1926  Pietro Angelini rebuilt  the facade. It was made on the model of the ancient one and we have evidence of this in the Gonfalone of San Bernardino di Benedetto Bonfigli, now in the National Gallery.  Ending with thympanum and enclosed between two buttresses, the façade has white and pink geomentrical lining and colored inlays. The church is now deconsecrated and uncovered and togheter with the Convent which houses the Academy of Fine Arts in Perugia is subjected to consolidation and restoration works. Once restored, it will become the Auditorium of the city. The church kept masterpieces of extraordinary importance, among the most important: the St Francesco Master great Cross, now in the National Gallery, the Baglioni Deposition and the Coronation of the Virgin by Raffaello respectively today preserved in the Galleria Borghese and the Pinacoteca Vaticana in Rome. The Resurrection by Pietro Vannucci, known as Perugino,is in 
the Pinacoteca Vaticana too. For a great view of the Church and the San Bernardino Oratory it is strongly recommended to take the stairs of Via del Poggio and to reach the homonymous panoramic square.