The church of San Pietro cannot boast of any fantastic works of art, so why visit it? What the church does have, is a nice façade that – rather surprisingly – turns out to be incomplete. The dome of the San Pietro also warrants closer inspection. Especially at dusk, when the last sunlight hits the soft pink stone that was used for construction of the church, visitors will be reminded of how beautiful and extraordinary the town of Assisi is.
The church is part of an abbey that was built by Benedictines in the tenth century. The current church, however, dates from the thirteenth century and was consecrated in 1253 by Pope Paus Innocentius IV (1243-1254). The splendid Romanesque façade was completed in 1268. Originally it was topped by a triangular pediment, but this element was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1832. The same disaster also damaged the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli in the valley. The pediment was subsequently removed, leaving the church of San Pietro with a façade that is almost square. The three large rose windows are beautiful. Up until the fourteenth century the church actually stood outside the walls of Assisi, but when these walls were extended it became part of the town.
The church interior is extremely simple. The San Pietro once had an opulent Baroque interior, which was added in the seventeenth century, but removed again in 1954. Visitors who nowadays enter the church will find themselves in a dark and gloomy building with preciously few decorations. Among the things to see are some tombs against the counter-façade and three rather faded frescoes in the Cappella del Sacramento that are attributed to Pace di Bartolo. He was a pupil of the great Giotto di Bondone (ca. 1266-1337). On one of the frescoes we see a bishop, supposedly Saint Victorinus. According to tradition he was one of Rufinus’ succesors, Rufinus being the first bishop of Assisi. Victorinus was reportedly martyred around the year 240 and his remains are kept below the high altar.
Below the apse is a crypt that currently houses a small museum. Among the art on display is a work by the Umbrian painter Matteo da Gualdo (ca. 1430/35-1507). On the left side of the church we find the Cappella del Rosario. The altarpiece in the chapel dates from the start of the seventeenth century (1611).