Along the Via Soliana is the church of San Bernardino, an important example of Baroque architecture in the city of Orvieto. The church is grafted into the little space left free between the pre-existing Palazzo Crispo Marsciano and the rooms of the monastery that, together with the adjoining oratory, was founded starting from 1462 at the behest of the Franciscan tertiary Lucrezia della Genga, shortly after the death of the foundress Blessed Angelina da Marsciano.
Lucrezia established the first religious settlement where there was already a small chapel dedicated to San Bernardino. Before the construction of the entire complex, there was an ancient road named Santa Maria that connected an ancient access of the city, Porta Santa Maria, to the religious center of Piazza Duomo.
The history of the convent is linked to the figure of Pope Urban IV, who instituted the feast of Corpus Christi after the miracle of Bolsena. In 1253 Urban IV approved the Rule drawn up by St. Clare for the order of the Poor Clares. Not all the monasteries of Poor Clares that arose in the meantime accepted the Rule.
Thus a new Rule was composed, called the Urban Rule, which was approved with a bull by Urban IV on October 18, 1263 in Orvieto. The nuns present in the monastery of San Bernardino are named after this new Rule, and precisely “urbanian”, because they follow the rule revised by Urban IV.
The southern part of the city of Orvieto can be defined as a “Franciscan area” for the presence of many religious buildings, both male and female, all connected to the Franciscan order.
The church was designed by Cosimo Poli, nephew of Cardinal Fausto Poli, between 1657 and 1666.
The façade is composed of two overlapping registers divided by projecting string cornices and marked vertically by a double order of travertine pilasters.
The lateral parts are slightly set back from the central one to which they are connected by two large spiral volutes. The upper register culminates with a large tympanum below which a window opens.
The central portal, framed by molded frames in travertine, is surmounted by a curvilinear tympanum in which the richly framed IHS monogram is inserted. Above the portal runs a band with the dedicatory inscription to San Bernardino, dated 1666. Large parts of the façade are in tufo.
The realization is linked to the names of two important families related to each other, the Marsciano and the Montemarte. The coats of arms and some inscriptions are inside the building. The interior, with an elliptical plan, contains five altars embellished with decorative stuccoes made between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. To the right of the entrance you can admire a travertine holy water stoup, attributed to Ippolito Scalza, which has in the base the coat of arms of the Opera del Duomo, that of the Monaldeschi and the inscription “S(uora) Agnese M(on)temarte” with the date “1588”.
The walls are punctuated by niches framed by pilasters with capitals of composite order alternating with smooth masonry.
At the top, the elliptical sail vault ends with a lantern also elliptical in shape, equipped with four windows. The church receives light from two large windows, one on the façade and one on the right side of the entrance, while the one on the left side is fake.
First altar to the right of the entrance
To the right of the altar is represented St. Catherine of Alexandria and to the left St. Ursula. In the center there is the painting on canvas depicting the Education of the Virgin, attributed to Giacinto Gimignani. The canvas is cut. At the bottom on the right side you can see the coat of arms of the Montemarte family.
On the frontals of the altar are painted two crossed arms, symbol of the Franciscans, and a heart with the flame and thorns, symbol of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Below is the fresco with a miracle of San Bernardino (perhaps the one of the girl drowned at the source).
San Bernardino is recognizable by the Franciscan dress and the emaciated face. The saint’s attribute is the flaming sun with the IHS monogram, short for Jesus’ name. Below a water infiltration ruined the fresco but allowed to discover another fresco from an earlier period.
Second altar on the right
On the altar, where there was a painting with Saint Lucia, you can now see the painting of the Madonna and Child between St. Joseph and St. Anne.
On the sides are frescoed San Gregorio il Taumaturgo on the right and San Nicola di Bari on the left.
Apse and high altar
Above the main altar there is a tempera panel representing the Virgin enthroned with the Child between the Apostles Peter and Paul and Saints Francis and Bernardine, attributed to Sinibaldo Ibi, a painter who was a follower of Perugino.
On the sides of the altar are painted the Angel who hands the cross to Blessed Angelina da Marsciano and the Apparition of the Madonna and Child.
In the archivolt, on the left is St. John of Capestrano with the Crusader banner, in the round in the center at the top the Child Jesus and on the right St. Bernardine with the chalice.
Shrine with the Child Jesus
In a recess next to the presbytery is preserved a statue of the Child Jesus considered miraculous. Tradition says that he moved his toes during a procession and that he protected the city of Orvieto from some natural disasters, such as the earthquake.
First altar to the left of the entrance
There are depicted St. Elizabeth of Hungary on the right, the Immaculate Conception with St. Anthony of Padua, St. Clare of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Peter of Alcantara in the center, St. Elizabeth of Portugal and Santa Barbara on the left.
On the counter-façade wall is the organ built in 1709 by two nuns of the Montemarte family.
Second altar on the left
In the painting in the center are depicted St. Francis adoring the Cross and Saints Benedict, Pietro Nolasco, Vincenzo Ferrer and Bernardo. On the sides are represented the Blessed Angelina da Marsciano as a Franciscan tertiary and the sermon of San Bernardino