Spello’s Art Gallery officially opened on 6th August 1994, but the first collection of works was put together by the prior Luigi Pomponi when he began, in 1916, to collect the most important works from the church of Santa Maria Maggiore and other churches. Works from the Municipality of Spello and of the Congregazione della Carità were later added to this collection. Pomponi took care of the Pinacoteca personally until the 1960s, while in the 1980s a seat was found for the museum, which is still in Palazzo dei Canonici, the building adjacent to Santa Maria Maggiore, built in 1542.
Another figure who was fundamental to the development of the museum is Benvenuto Crispoldi, a painter from Spello who was active between 1886 and 1923 and was the first socialist mayor of the city. He bequeathed all his works to the local council.
The Pinacoteca di Spello contains precious Gothic and Baroque jewellery, sacred vestments, polychrome wooden sculptures, paintings on panels, paintings on canvas and detached frescoes, dating from the end of the 13th century to the 18th century. They illustrate the quality of local artistry and the relationships between Spello and the other artistic towns in Umbrian such as Spoleto, Perugia and Foligno.
The museum is divided into seven rooms, whose main attractions are a wooden Madonna carved in the early 14th century, the Croce Astile (Astile Cross) in gilded silver by Paolo Vanni dated 1398 and the Gonfalone (banner) by the Foligno-based workshop of the Mazzaforte, together with the Madonna col Rosario (Madonna with rosary) by Ascensidonio Spacca. In room 5 you’ll also see some exquisite panels from the choir of Santa Maria Maggiore, painted at the end of the 16th century by Zaccaria di Filippo Mazzola; also from the same church is the triptych of the Maestro dell’Assunta di Amelia, a tempera painting from the end of the 15th century placed in the same room as the Madonna con Bambino, attributed first to Pintoricchio and then to Andrea d’Assisi. The work was stolen in 1970 and did not return to Spello until 34 years later, in 2004; it is also tempera painting and was the central panel of the triptych of the Maestro dell’Assunta.