The earliest record of the hermitage dates back to 1206, but it certainly existed long before the Benedictines of the Abbey of Santa Maria di Valdiponte of Perugia decided to settle in the area. Here, they built a cistern to collect drinking water and a church with a monastery dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles. Following the environmental remediation carried out by the monks in the surrounding areas, the hermitage was now amidst vineyards and so, it was defined in Vigneto.
The hermitage is placed along a road that was very frequented in ancient times – as evidenced by the ruins of a Roman bridge over the River Chiascio near the Castle of Peglio – and it was probably a detour of Via Flaminia. A route that started from Pontericcioli on the border between Umbria and Marche, crossed Gubbio (perhaps along what today is the state road La Contessa) and, continuing towards Assisi, led to Foligno where it joined Via Flaminia. This constant transit was the reason for the construction of a shelter for pilgrims, for a long time the main function of the hermitage. On 8th August 1463, the hermitage of San Pietro in Vigneto was dissolved by Papal Bull of Pope Pius II and, together with the land, it became the property of the Canons of the Cathedral of Gubbio who still own it today. The earthquakes of 1979 and 1984 required the involvement of the Superintendency that oversaw the restoration of the hermitage and at the same time removed what had been indiscriminately added over the years, correcting what had been altered. It’s located along Via Francigena which still today welcomes travellers and pilgrims thanks to funding offered by a private citizen, Stefano Giombini.
The Frescoed Stronghold
The convent, because of its tower and its compactness, looks more like a stronghold than a religious settlement. It is difficult to distinguish and identify the individual buildings due to its architectural continuity and the reuse of the various spaces throughout the centuries. Only the bell gable and a tiny lancet window are a hint of the presence of the chapel in the north-east corner of the complex. In the paved courtyard, overlooked by the buildings, there is a large and beautiful cistern. Inside the church there is a 15th-century fresco of the school of Gubbio; it’s a sweet depiction of Madonna with Child with Saint Sebastian, Saint Anthony, Saint Peter and Saint Rocco at their side.
Appearing Ruins, Disappearing Ruins
The Castle of Peglio, which stood in proximity of the hermitage, was senselessly destroyed a few years ago to build the dam on the Chiascio: its beautiful, perfectly-cut stones that had survived the centuries are no more there, swept away by bulldozers in 1978. Its remains were impressive: the slits that were used to operate the drawbridge could be seen on the façade and beautiful segmental arches adorned the walls. The water of the dam submerged also a centenary elm that was «so beautiful and large that it would take three men to embrace it».
Due to heavy rain, in 1780 there was a landslide that unearthed the remains of a Pagan temple near the hermitage: clay lanterns, fragments of inscriptions, coins and twelve pieces of a marble statue of Mars Cyprio, the tutelary deity of the temple (today kept in the Archaeological Museum of Florence). An inscription offered evidence that the temple had been restored by some Lucio Avoleno in the 2nd century AD, while 5th-century coins were proof that the inhabitants of the area had been making offerings to the pagan god until that time.
For the historical bibliography, see B. Martin, S. Pietro in Vigneto, Vispi&Angeletti, Gubbio 1997, that is also the reference.
P. Pizzichelli, Gubbio Francescana e sentiero francescano della pace, Gavirati, Gubbio 1999, pp. 53-55.
Sentiero francescano della pace da Assisi a Valfabbrica a Gubbio, Provincia di Perugia, Perugia 2000, pp. 30-31.
L. Zazzerini, In ascolto dell’assoluto. Viaggio tra gli eremi in Umbria, Edimond, Città di Castello 2007, pp. 68- 73.
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 P. Pizzichelli, Gubbio Francescana e sentiero francescano della pace, Gavirati, Gubbio 1999, p. 52.