Where the church currently stands there was formerly an
Etruscan building called the "Bagno della Regina" (Queen's Bath). Later the Romans built
baths there and perhaps also a pagan temple.
In 1200 this site belonged to the Benedictine monks of S. Egidio who sold it to the Comune
of Cortona who then, a little later, gave it to Brother Elia in January of 1245. In the
same year the Franciscans bad begun work on construction of the second church dedicated to
their Saint, after the one in Assisi. The resulting building was 43 m. long from the
central door to the main altar and about 15 m. wide. It was built in worked stone, in
perfect Gothic style, rectangular in shape with bare beams, and cross ogive vaults and
It was opened to worship in May of 1254. The previous year, Brother Elia was buried in the
choir; his remains were exhumed on 13 August, 1966, and under scientific examination any
doubt as to their authenticity was removed. In 1596 the Church underwent a significant
transformation: the large Gothic windows were replaced by the rectangular ones still
visible on the right-hand side and in the choir.
The beautiful organ which was built in 1466 by Lorenzo di Giacomo of Prato, was almost
completely destroyed during World War II and bas not been restored.
In the chapel on the right one can see an altarpiece by the Cortonese Mariotto Radi and
one by Nicola Monti of Pistoia. In the other chapels there are works by the Florentine,
Orazio Fidani, by Andrea Commodi and Lodovico Cardi. The chapel at the end on the right
contains a monument to Raniero Ubertini, Bishop of Cortona from 1325 to 1348, who was a
victim of the terrible plague of 1348, described by Bocaccio in the Decameron. This chapel
dates back to 1657. The marble high altar is the work of Bernardino Radi. The Relic of
Santa Croce, brought by Brother Elia from Constantinople and the big Crucifix by the
Florentine Giuseppe Piamontini are also worth looking at. The frescoes which were
discovered on various parts of the walls are by the School of Buonamico di Martino, called
Buffalmacco, and date back to 1382.
Of the five bells, three have been made electric. Brother Elia had one of them cast in
1250 by Petrolini de Trebio and Pasquale Burcatelli Perugino. It was re-cast in 1773 and
the diameter measures 85cm. The second bell is of 1267 and the third of 1373 by Maestro
Nicola di Cortona. The other two are more recent and are dated 1771 and 1805 respectively.