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The Treasure Museum

museo del tesoro di san francesco

In May of 1230, after its provisional burial for about four years in the church of St. George, the body of St. Francis of Assisi found its definitive resting place in the Basilica built in his honor. To this solemn transfer are linked the first prestigious gifts, which mark the effective beginning of the collection later known as the Treasure of the Basilica. This “treasure” was kept for centuries in a secret room at the base of the imposing bell tower. Many inventories, from 1338, documented its growth. Throughout the centuries, however, the artistic patrimony of the Basilica suffered various losses due to plundering and dispersal, the most important of which was that of the Napoleonic era. In 1897, after the suppression of religious orders during the unification of Italy, the Superintendence of Perugia ordered the preparation of a new catalog for the constitution of a Franciscan Museum. After the Sacred Convent was returned to the friars in 1929, the precious collection was set up and open to public view in the Papal Hall, which was restored for the occasion. In 1977 it was transferred to the Gothic Hall, on the second floor of the Cloister of Pope Sixtus IV, occupying part of the antique Papal Palace.

The collection currently contains about a hundred works including paintings, sculptures, precious metal works, tapestries, and illuminated manuscripts. Among the most important works, it is possible to admire Guccio Mannaia’s chalice, a gift from the first Franciscan pope, Nicholas IV, the altar frontal of Pope Sixtus IV, the illuminated Paris Missal with the book of the Gospels and the Lectionary of Louis IX, panel paintings from the 13th through the 16th centuries, sinopie of the Roman and Sienese masters from the 13th and 14th centuries, a Flemish tapestry depicting the Franciscan tree. In the adjoining hall the Perkins Collection is on display, donated by the renowned art historian Frederick Mason Perkins (1955), containing fifty-six panel paintings (14th through 16th centuries), among which are works by Pietro Lorenzetti, Lorenzo Monaco, and Sassetta.

The collection has been enriched with the addition of a room dedicated to music, a very important part of the cultural history of the shrine, where musical instruments from the 17th and 18th centuries can be admired.

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