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Fermo, Saint Francis' Church of the Minors Conventual

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In the beginning the Mendicants preferred to build their religious structures in areas slightly isolated from town centres, which generally meant areas just outside the town gates, next to the town walls or along roads that connected the town centre to the countryside. Saint Francis' Church, indeed, was built near the northern walls of the city of Fermo between the end of the 13th and the first half of the 14th century. It is a fine example of Gothic architecture, built in the territory that inspired the “Little Flowers of Saint Francis” and encouraged the spread of the ideals of poverty, charity and humility professed by Gods' Jester. Over time the sacred building underwent a series of restorations, but certainly the most significant work involved a major transformation of the roof after the devastating earthquake of 1703 and the work which a few years later affected the entire façade. The sober façade with two orders and a portal dating from 1604 seems to clash with the imposing polygonal apse on a battered base, broken harmoniously by massive pillars, high trilobate single lancet windows and circular windows inserted in 1894 following plans by the architect Giuseppe Sacconi. The Gothic bell tower which rises majestically on one side of the church is distinguished instead by its double lancet windows, its charming hanging arches and the majolica bowls decorating the four faces. The interior, divided by three naves broken by slender round columns, causes immediate amazement owing to the emphatic verticalization of the entire structure. A particularly interesting feature is the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament, which houses the funerary monument of Ludovico Euffreducci, built in 1527 to pay homage to the distinguished condottiere who from 1514 was for a short time Lord of the city of Fermo. Standing out among the frescoes decorating the imposing walls of the church is the one located in the ogival niche near the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament, divided into three parts depicting respectively the Annunciation, the Crucifixion of the Saviour and the Adoration of the Baby Jesus and the series of paintings attributed to Giuliano da Rimini which adorns the right apsidal chapel and depicts The Stories of the Virgin.

  1. In the 13th century the Church was in a state of disorder and corruption that could only be healed by going back to its origins and to the ideal of poverty preached by Jesus. This intuition came to Saint Francis who as a true “Jester of God’” managed to transmit to the people these values which had by then been obscured by power and corruption. Whilst alive, the “poor man of Assisi” never wanted to found monasteries, and instead invited the members of the confraternity of penitents to live in humble shelters of mud and straw. He exhorted them to procure food for themselves by working and preaching the Word of God among the people, in small churches which had been abandoned or donated temporarily by the local church authorities. It was only after his death that there began the incessant flowering of convents and friaries reserved for the Poor Clares and Minor Friars. The Franciscan Custody of Fermo was particularly significant for the spread of holy buildings around the land that had inspired Brother Ugolino da Montegiorgio to write Actus Beati Francisci, better known as the Little Flowers of Saint Francis. The Custody of the Marca Fermana was perhaps the smallest, but was certainly the one with the most friaries and convents in the Order. There are, in fact, innumerable traces left by the Franciscans all over the territory that stretches from Fermo through Pedaso, Sant’Elpidio a Mare, Mogliano, Montegiorgio, Falerone and Santa Vittoria in Matenano up to Amandola.

  1. Ludovico Euffreducci was born in 1497 in Fermo. His family, which boasted noble origins, was forced to move owing to an ordinance, resulting from the series of internecine struggles that raged in Falerone for the conquest of power. After his uncle Oliverotto, the hated lord of Fermo, was killed, his mother managed to save Ludovico from the people's rage by fleeing to Perugia. He lived part of his youth in the Umbrian city, where he fought among the ranks of the lord of the city, Gianpaolo Baglioni. After several attempts, in 1514 he managed to return to his birthplace thanks to the favour of the Medici. Over the following years he was in the service of the Papal States, but the idyll with Pope Leo X came to an end in 1520, when after a number of false moves he was declared a rebel and an enemy of the Church. Perennially balanced unstably between convenient faithfulness to the Pope and the desire to preserve his hegemony in Fermo, he lived his life between precarious negotiations and wars for power. He died in 1520, fighting against the papal army. His body was exhibited as a warning for the defeated survivors.