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Monuments&Museums: The Municipality

Monastery of Sant'Igne

Church and Monastery of Sant'Igne

Monastery of Sant'Igne

Along the road climbing up Mount Severino, going down to Peggio, just after Biforca and Tausano, after crossing a creek called Mazzocco, close to the old Parish church Pieve di Sant’Agata in Farneto, lies the Franciscan monastery of Sant’Igne.

Following the Franciscan Rule, and in line with what happened in major cities in central and northern Italy, the monastery stands outside the medieval city walls, along one of the main access roads to the city. Located in an isolated place, only the most motivated visitors discover this third masterpiece of medieval religious architecture.

Sant’Igne: the name itself has a mysterious, eerie touch in it, and yet its etymology is no different from that of other towns and villages in the area such as Carpegna, Fusigno or Sapigno. Evidence of its original place name, Santegna, can be found in a scroll from the 17th May 1300, ratifying a reconciliation between the Bishop of Montefeltro and the Lords of some of the territories in his jurisdiction.
Unlike what the legend holds, Santegna was the original place name and not Sant’Igne, which means sacred fire (from Latin ignis, fire). The legend, widespread in the area as early as the XVI century, has it that right here a figure in a bright light appeared to Saint Francis, showing him the way to go. That place was Santegna, as masterfully proved by Gustavo Parisciani, in a book that is pivotal for the history of the Franciscan Monastery in San Leo.

Quite likely, the Franciscan monastery, was erected just after Saint Francis’s visit in 1223 (He was there as early as 1213), on an old chapel built by Cistercian monks. This assumption is supported by writer and historian Augusto Campana, holding that the small village a hundred meters from the monastery called Sant’Antimo (A saint to which many a Benedictine monasteries are dedicated), is proof that a community of monks belonging to that order inhabited the area. Further proof constitute the remains of an ancient wall, featuring an unmistakeably Roman structure, different from the rest of the building.

Sant’Igne’s plan is quite peculiar: it features a rectangular room on which a short transept is inserted, literally ending up next to the choir, in two symmetrical square plan chapels. Chapels are unusual in Franciscan churches in the area, thus making the building a unique example, influenced by the same architecture as early Franciscan churches in nearby Umbria.

The inner walls of the church, entirely brought to life by recent restoration works, were built hastily and with little attention for detail, probably to be plastered at a later date. Following in the tradition of Franciscan monasteries, inner walls are plastered and frescoed, as testified by the only fresco left, partially preserved, portraying the Virgin Mary with the Child, between Saint Joseph and Saint Anthony from Padua, dating back to 1535.

An access door leads to the quadrangular cloister, surrounded by twenty small octagonal columns with water-leaf capitals, supporting the sloped roof on its four sides. The bell-gable gives onto the cloister, featuring a stone coat-of-arms of Federico da Montefeltro, chiselled in the XIV century. Nevertheless, the chapter house is the most evocative area of the monastery, with its original trilobated windows untouched, very similar to the church’s ones.
Due the vicissitudes of the building over the centuries, it is today impossible to identify the original function of the other rooms.

Il convento di Sant'Igne a San Leo Il convento di Sant'Igne a San Leo Il convento di Sant'Igne a San Leo