This Benedictine monastery at Perugia's edge, its pointed Gothic tower a city landmark, was founded in the late 900s. Inside the first courtyard is the Romanesque entrance to the monastery's San Pietro church. The church's old facade was uncovered in the 1980s, revealing 14th-century Giottesque frescoes between the arches -- the enthroned three-headed woman on the right may represent the Holy Trinity. The 16th-century interior is supported by ancient granite and marble columns (pilfered from a pagan temple) and is heavily decorated -- wallpapered with 16th-and 17th-century canvases, frescoed with grotesques, and filled with Renaissance and baroque paintings. The first altarpiece on the right is a colorful 16th-century Madonna with Saints by Eusebio da San Giorgio. Toward the end of the right aisle is the door to the sacristy (track down a monk to open it), which contains five small Perugino paintings of saints that were stolen in 1916 but found their way back here by 1993. Also here are two small Caravaggiesque works: The Santa Francesca Romana with an Angel is attributed by some to Caravaggio himself, and the Christ at the Column copperplate sketch is a copy, perhaps of a lost Caravaggio original.
Ask the sacristan also to light up the choir so you can see the incredible wooden choir stalls, some of the finest examples of wood intarsia in all of Italy, produced in 1526 by a workshop under the direction of Bernardino Antonibi and Stefano Zambelli. In 1536, Stefano's brother Fra' Damiano inlaid the masterpiece door at the back, whose panels could hold their own against any painting of the Renaissance.
At the altar end of the left aisle are a strikingly medieval Pietà scene painted by Fiorenzo di Lorenzo in 1469 and paintings of St. Peter and St. Paul attributed to Il Guercino. The Cappella Vibi houses a gilded marble tabernacle by Mino da Fiesole, and in the Cappella Ranieri next door hangs Guido Reni's Christ in the Garden. Continuing down the left aisle, before the third altar, is another Eusebio da San Giorgio painting, this one of the Adoration of the Magi (1508). Between the second and first altars is a late Pietà by Perugino.