Basilica di Santa Margherita

Remembering our first visit to Cortona and the strenuous postprandial walk to the top of the town, we opted to drive this time to explore the magnificent Basilica di Santa Margherita.

A church was built on the site by the Camaldolese monks in the 11th century, dedicated to St. Basil, but was damaged during the sack of Cortona in 1258. Efforts led by Margherita di Cortona resulted in the church and adjacent convent being rebuilt in 1288. The interior is spectacular.

There have been many alterations over the centuries, the large rose window of the façade is one of the few remaining original features.

A marble depiction of Saint Margaret and a chapel commemorating the Cortonese war dead are to the side of the main aisle.

The most impressive display is above, with vibrant ceiling frescoes and stained glass windows presenting impossible angles.

Margaret lived the last years of her life in a small room at the back of the church until her death in 1297. She was buried in a wall of the chapel of St. Basil and her remains were transferred when a larger church was constructed in 1330. Her body is now displayed in a silver casket at the main altar.

Canonized in 1728, Saint Margaret didn’t have an enviable portfolio, being the patron saint of the falsely accused, homeless, insane, orphaned, mentally ill, midwives, penitents, single mothers, reformed prostitutes, stepchildren and tramps.

Beyond the rooftop of the neighbouring convent,

the vista across Lake Trasimeno and the Val di Chiana once again took our breath away.

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