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Eremo di Santa Maria del Paradiso

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The hermitage of Santa Maria del Paradiso is an abandoned building that’s clearly visible along the road that goes up from Spello to Collepino, in the area of Paradiso. The complex is known for having been the site of a female Franciscan order (known as bizzocche) until the middle of the 14th century: here four nuns from Spello, belonging to the order of penitents, chose to retire to a life of poverty and asceticism in protest against the luxurious lifestyle of the high-ranking clergy.

The order was established on 30th June 1296 by Simone di Leonardo, who gave them one of his homes and requested that a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary be placed alongside it; the bizzoche were in fact devoted to the cult of the Virgin. Whilst they initially followed the Augustinian rule, in 1325 they passed to the order of Santa Chiara, not wanting however to give up their lifestyle as bizzocche and their private property: they therefore continued to administer their assets and to sell hemp and linen products at fairs or to private individuals, withholding part of the proceeds. At the hermitage, commercial plants and various grains such as barley, millet and wheat were cultivated, as well as vineyards and olive groves; some land, acquired over the years, was subsequently leased.

According to the local historian Donnola, the nuns of Santa Maria del Paradiso joined the nuns of the monasteries of Santa Margherita and San Giacomo in the same period in which nuns of ‘old’ Vallegloria abandoned their convent. They moved near Spello, to the Prato area, in the mid-14th century and in 1462 their religious foundation was suppressed. Santa Maria del Paradiso became the property of the prior of San Lorenzo, Benedetto Urbani and was later sold, while the nuns settled in the complex of Santa Chiara, within the city walls.

In the end, the former hermitage in the Paradiso area became a farmhouse and shelter for livestock.

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