Home / Posts Tagged "Montefalco"

«He was disciple of Angelico Friar John, rightly loved by him, and by those who knew him and considered him a man of great talent and a very skilled painter in representing animals, perspectives, landscapes and ornaments» . (Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de’ più eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori italiani da Cimabue, insino a’ tempi nostri)

 Few are the biographical data about the Florentine Benozzo di Lese di Sandro, better known as Benozzo Gozzoli. Close collaborator of Beato Angelico, indeed his partner, he loved to reproduce his master bloodless expressive dolls, without exceeding him, without going beyond the border. Anyway, in his first works he was able to reach an admirable balance between the firmness of forms in full light and disarming white light.


The Annunciation at the Pinacoteca of Narni

A Huge Signed Painting

These characters are perfectly recognizable in the Umbrian works made by the painter. Not only in the cycle of the stories of the life of Saint Francis, frescoed in the homonymous church of Montefalco, but also in the Annunciation of the Virgin, an altarpiece found in Narni and still preserved in the Picture Galley of the town.
The work is a great tempera on a table, 117 cm wide and 142 high; its attribution is certain, as it is signed by the painter himself who, along the lower edge of the brocade curtain behind the Virgin, engraved in capital letters «OPV[S] BENOTI[I] DE FLORENTI[A]». This is not the only inscription but another one is on the mantel of the Virgin: «AV[E] REGINA».
The characters of the altarpiece, the Archangel Gabriel and Mary, are in a portico, of which there are two pillars. The Virgin, with her hands crossed on her chest, is kneeling on a small stool, tracing the model of the Angelico in the third cell of the convent of San Marco in Florence. In the upper part, the rays of light are still partially visible, probably originally completed by the figure, now lost, of the Eternal or the Dove of the Holy Spirit that lit up the scene from above. The refinement of the work is reflected in the care and elegance of the details, such as in the highlights of the fingernails of the characters, the realism of the double keys and the refined inlay decoration of the wooden box behind Maria.

Damages and Restorations

The work is very damaged and has undergone several restoration interventions (1901, 1933, 1947, 1952, 1988, 2002). The author’s signature was already visible before the 1988 intervention, although this is the date that has always been accepted for the discovery of the inscription, actually, already in 1959, Castellani could see it. In any case, perhaps  between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, due to the bad state of conservation, it was no longer easily readable, so much so that the Guardabassi attributed the table to Pierantonio Mezzastris, while Eroli considered it more generically of «Umbrian  School».
To attribute it to Benozzo Gozzoli was Pératé in 1907 which dated it to 1450-1452. The attribution to Gozzoli was also accepted by Gnoli, who subsequently placed the painting around 1449, considering it «the most ancient work of the Florentine master». Even today the painting is dated around 1449, at an early stage of the Florentine master’s stay in Umbria which extended over a period of five years. In 1449 the painter is documented in Orvieto, a city not too far from Narni, which at the time represented an important center of the Papal State, not too far from Rome.
As for the location, Guardabassi, at the end of the nineteenth century, places it in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, today San Domenico, and writes: «II Chapel. The entrance was architected at the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty of the lines correspond to ornamental sculptures. Indoor. Left Wall: Tempered table – the Annunciation; work of the Mezzasti[1]». From Eroli, on the other hand, we know that in 1898 the work was no longer there: «The second chapel was stripped of its ornaments, as well as the paintings that embellished it (…) I do not forget a small table, which I saw here set on the right wall of the altar, having in itself the Annunciation, which I have no doubt in attributing to the Umbrian school; but the worms have done damage, and will soon perish, if the Town Hall, which today has custody, does not cure it and heals it».

A Client's Matter

If the attribution of the work is certain, the commission is uncertain. The proximity of Narni to Orvieto has revealed  the probable link with a work depicting the Annunciation, which had been requested to Benozzo by a «domina Gianna Gregorii» and which had remained incomplete due to the insolvency of the client. Benozzo then tried to give the painting to the members of the Opera of the Cathedral of Orvieto, offering  them to complete the work begun at his expense. The members accepted the offer declaring themselves willing to bear the cost of the colors, provided that the emblem of Donna Gianna was replaced with that of the Fabbrica del Duomo. Of this painting, however, neither the fate nor the execution technique is known, but it is not excluded that the work was the one arrived in an unknown way to Narni.
Another hypothesis is that Benozzo had got in touch with the Dominican friars of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Narni through Angelico’s intermediation. Actually, various iconographic elements, combined with the original location within the Dominican church, lead to a more narnese commissioning.


Some apparently decorative details, actually, have a strongly symbolic function; if we accept the Narnese commissioning, they can provide important clues not only on the client itself, but also on the destination of the work. The decorative motif of the carpet at the feet of Mary is of particular importance, it consists of a bevy of black dogs, placed all around the Madonna, almost deployed in her defense. It is probable that an allusion to the Friar Preachers should be seen according to a word play based on their Latin name. The Dominicanes,  followers of Domenico, considered themselves Lord’s Dogs, in Latin Domini canes, as defenders of Catholic orthodoxy, in particular for their function as inquisitors of heresies. Another element that reinforces this thesis is given by the color of the dogs, black with a white outline. These are the same colors of the dress worn by the friars of the Order of Preachers. Moreover, as already mentioned, Benozzo got in touch with the Dominicans thanks to his long fellowship with Beato Angelico and with this monastic order he remained always bound by doing many works for it in different cities. Another element in favor of the Narnese client is the floral decoration on the pillars of the arcade that divides the Archangel Gabriel from the Annunziata. The leaves are clearly ivy leaves, depicted in both the stylized heart and naturalistic shapes. The heart-shaped version of these is distinctive of the House of the Eroli and are present in the coat of arms of the noble family of Narni that in this historical period enriched the city churches with many works of art. Therefore, what looked like just a decoration probably represents a precise reference to the client and is placed significantly at the center of the work. It is very probable that the client was the cardinal Berardo Eroli who, given his close relations with some of the greatest exponents of the political and religious world of the time (Niccolò V, the Medici in Florence, Sant’Antonino Pierozzi, for example,  might have come into contact with the Florentine artist and entrusted him with  his work.


[1] M. Guardabassi, Indice-guida dei monumenti pagani e cristiani riguardanti l’istoria e l’arte esistenti nella provincia dell’Umbria, p. 134, Perugia, G. Boncompagni,1872


City Museum is located in via Aurelio Saffi, 1 – Narni (TR)

Opening time:


from Tuesday to Sunday, holidays and pre-holidays 10.30am – 1.00pm/3.30pm – 6.00pm closed

on Mondays


every day 10.30am – 1.00pm/3.30pm – 6.00pm


Friday, Saturday, Sunday, holidays and pre-holydays 10.30am – 1.00pm/3.00pm – 5.30pm

Closed  on 25th December.  On 1st January  afternoon time only.

Telephone: 0039 0744 717117

E-mail: narni@sistemamuseo.it



G. Vasari, Le vite de’ più eccellenti architetti, pittori et scultori italiani, da Cimabue a’ tempi nostri, Firenze, per i tipi di Lorenzo Torrentino, 1550

E. Lunghi, Benozzo Gozzoli a Montefalco, Assisi, Editrice Minerva, 2010

A. Novelli, L. Vignoli, L’arte a Narni tra Medioevo e Illuminismo, Perugia, Era Nuova, 2004

B. Toscano, G. Capitelli, Benozzo Gozzoli allievo a Roma, maestro in Umbria, Silvana Editoriale, 2002

U. Gnoli, L’arte umbra alla Mostra di Perugia, p.32, Bergamo, Istituto italiano d’arti grafiche, 1908

M. Guardabassi, Indice-guida dei monumenti pagani e cristiani riguardanti l’istoria e l’arte esistenti nella provincia dell’Umbria, Perugia, G. Boncompagni,1872

G. Eroli, Descrizione delle chiese di Narni e suoi dintorni: le più importanti rispetto all’antichità e alle belle arti, Narni, Tipografia Petrignani, 1898

Diane Cole Ahl, Benozzo Gozzoli , Cinisello Balsamo, Silvana Editoriale, 1997

Montefalco belongs to the Club
I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia


From the top of the hills above the plains of the two Umbrian rivers Clitunno and Topino, the village of Montefalco looks out over the Umbrian valley; a village surrounded by olive groves and vineyards that form a sort of precious emerald and ruby ​​necklace, nuances that recall the deep bond between this land and the rapid passing of the seasons, each one with its characteristic colours. 

Right in this historic open-air theatre, the four quarters of St. Augustine, St. Bartholomew, St. Fortunato, and St. Francis are on stage, as actors, in the City Hall square. Every year, they make relive ancient scenes, the simplicity of never forgotten country life.
The four city inns, during these days, are decorated with the vivid colours of the neighbourhoods and they take place, always within the city walls, in typical and suggestive places of the village, where you can taste plates and wines of Umbrian tradition.
During the whole festival, Agosto Montefalchese is animated with an Historical Parade, with characters from the Renaissance Period, the Tamburini Challenge (drummers) and the Flag-wavers. 


Tamburini Challenge

The challenge of the Tamburini, photo via


All this glorious historical recalling is centred on the Palio and on the conquest of the Golden Falcon, the majestic volatile symbol of the Municipality itself. Ancient chronicles tell us that Emperor Frederick II of Swabia renamed the ancient town of Coccorone in Montefalco, just because of the massive presence of these birds flying over those hills.
The contest is structured in several races that keep the whole village in anxiety: they are ancient competitions, moments that bind all citizens, ready to scream and stunner for their fortune-tellers who contend for primacy.
The price is disputed by young people belonging to the four city districts that, every year highlight their mastery and their love for the neighbourhood.
The first challenge is the shot with the crossbow, whose target is a reproduction of a bull’s head with different scores depending on the part that is reached by the dart. Competition continues to flourish with the second race: the one of the relay, a real ring of conjunction between the Middle Ages and the athletic races of modern times.



Shooting with the crossbow, photo via


The competition apex is reached during the Fuga del Bove (Bulls Flight). A much less crude re-enactment than the one handed down by the medieval chronicles; it was said that on Christmas day an ox was forcedly brought on the streets of the town soon after made it drink wine and pepper to make it furious and difficult to handle. There was, then, a crowd of men waiting for it that, sheltering in robust wooden barrels, stirred it up to make it run until he was exhausted.
The Bulls Race is experienced, today, in a non-cruel way; every quarter is entrusted with a bull to train and treat throughout the winter to get into the race in the middle of August and compete. The ox is dragged and driven by trusted carriers who challenge each other for the honour of their district under the careful look city, waiting for their passage in order to measure their strength and skill. 


The Bulls Race

The Bulls Race, photo via


The runners of each quarter accompany and drive, running, a bull of nearly five quintals, along an arduous path in a two-to-two-race. The winner is awarded with the Palio, which each year is commissioned to a different artist: it is a painting inspired by the atmosphere that can only be breathed in Montefalco during the days of the Palio.



Umbria WebCam


Comune di Montefalco.pg.it 


More on Montefalco

Is there a way to make an ethical journey and in great harmony with the places: is hot air balloon.

[rev_slider alias=”balloon”]


Peter Kollar is a Hungarian balloon pilot who has lived for a long time in New Zealand and four years ago came among the rolling hills between Bevagna and Assisi. He takes care of its passengers by involving them in a unique and totalizing experience. It all starts six o’clock in the morning, with clear weather and the moderate winds. The departure from Cantina Dionigi with a minibus service that leads to the nearby runway. The crew gets ready for the inflation operation, with industrial fans that produce the wind, we witness the rebirth of the huge orange ball that seems to wake up with the sun.

Time slowly flows

High, Swells and full of people is ready for takeoff. Light up the burners and slowly rises. At that moment you realize the magic that pervades all around, is silence, it is slow. Nature comes and embraces the enormous balloon, indicates the route heading towards Assisi, sometimes you can see Lake Trasimeno, with a sudden change of scenery and colors. Suspended, is flying over the vast expanses of wheat and then the yellow sunflowers, olive groves and grape vines. A panoramic trip that, like a flashback, back to origins. In that time the silence is the master, while the voracious glances collect everything that happens down below trying to interpret every detail. It ‘s all so slow that you forget the time that passes and, while you goes down on the first field not cultivated, identified by the pilot, you find the protagonist of that landscape Once landed, the minibus waiting and you reach the winery where you started.

A prepared Banquet

The experience continues, does not stop there. To wait, in the winery, a table full of delicious scents and flavors from the typical products of these areas and accompanied by excellent wine made right here. In the eyes again those overflown landscapes, which are in the flavors, all the earth just across. In some cases, especially in the most exclusive events, breakfast is served outdoors, in the nearby church of Madonna Pia with cloths woven by artisans of Montefalco and Deruta ceramics decorated by hand. The season from May to September it has a range of colors so rich that every trip is different, nature gives emotions and the traveler will feel part of the environment, outside the contemporary, almost like being part of an old painting.



Visit the website


Advertisement feature


In the decades between the end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century, the Italian winemaking was on the way towards modernisation.

Poor Quality Wines

At that time the reviews on Italian wines were unanimously merciless. The methods of manufacture were antiquated and the result, except for rare exceptions, was the prevalence of poor quality wines that spoiled easily.
The main reasons accounting for the lack of quality in wines were the physical and environmental conditions of the facilities, which were described as damp, unhealthy places, full of mould and completely inadequate for the processing of grapes.

Utilità ed eleganza

This negative situation slowly began to change towards the end of the XIX century with the birth of the first industrial factories that set up wine production in a rational way with the systematic recourse to machinery and equipment. Modern wine cellars, in addition to elegance, had to demonstrate they were practical and suitable for the production of good wines. The ideal solution was that which foresaw the existence of three-storey buildings, one of which is below ground level, intended for use in the ageing process and as a storage. The access between the floors is made through openings in the vaults, where tubes carried the must after crushing. This was the start of the rise of installations suited for the needs of science and the best oenological practice in Italy, bringing together a wise fusion of usefulness and elegance.

A Model of Winemaking Technology

The best example of this modern technology is the cellar built by the Roman Prince Ugo Boncompagni Ludovisi in Scacciadiavoli (Montefalco), at the end of the XIX century. It was the beginning of spacious facilities being constructed specifically for modern wine production. The winery of the Prince had a production capacity of 2,000-3,500 hectoliters and the management was entrusted to Carlo Toni. The establishment struck a chord as it was a clear example of modern scientific oenology. Toni was joined by his son Giuseppe, who was educated at the Alba and Avellino School of Viticulture, which was also an innovation for the industry. At the end of the century, the father and son ran a shop in Foligno specialized in the sale of «fine red Montefalco table wine» and pure pomace grappa. Carlo Toni was competent: it was demonstrated by the fact that in 1894 he was called to take part of the commission for the study of the phylloxera in the province of Umbria.
Boncompagni vineyards covered an area of over a hundred hectares, with over a million strains; the average yield per hectare was equal to 80 hectolitres. The machines were designed by Carlo Toni. Boncompagni’s wine was sold not only in the main Italian cities but also abroad: in Germany, in the United States and even in Japan.

The Architecture

Deviating from the traditional underground cellar or located in the foundations of some religious building, the cellars of Boncompagni winery had (and have) a slender main façade divided into two areas. The internal set up was to be admired: divided over four floors, one of which was in the basement, with the floor supported by an effective system of columns and beams in cast iron brought from the town of Prato. These columns still bear the initials of the Prince.
In the rear part of the building, nestled against a slightly inclined hill, there is the access to the vat cellar, placed at a higher level than the storage areas. The grapes were brought to the vat cellar using an efficient mechanism of carriages, that flowed on rails up to a bascule used for weighing; the grapes were then sent to crushers placed above the mouths of the vats. After fermentation, which lasted from six to eight days, the must from the vats was lowered to the third floor, reserved for the barrels. An element that imprinted an image of great and efficient modernity on Scacciadiavoli winery was the installation of reinforced concrete tanks covered with glazed tiles. The storage solution -which is still in use today- allowed a considerable save in space, but also had the advantage of ensuring the conservation of the wine, avoiding the need to sell off the product in the case of abundant crops.

In today’s society, struggling with socio-cultural breakdown imposed by the paradigm in the crisis of industrialisation, viticulture has been asked to contribute to the creation and the preservation of the “beautiful landscape”, that has to be associated also with the harmonic layout of the rows of vines along the hilly slopes. This is about the acknowledgement of the role played by viticulture in defining territorial identity –concerning Unesco instrucitions – and a long term operation that must include the ability to pass on a heritage made both by buildings and places of work, in order to attain a status like the one of the winery made by Prince Ugo Boncompagni in Montefalco.


Further readings on the topic:
Vaquero Piñeiro, Storia regionale della vite e del vino in Italia, Umbria, Volumnia, Perugia, 2012