Cardinal Gentile Partino da Montefiore (1240 - 1312)
Cardinal Partino kneeling infront of San Martino, situated in the lower Basilica of S. Francis, Assisi, 1313 - 1318 (Alfresco by Simone Martini)
One of many fascinating and historically significant figures to come out of the little town of Montefiore dell’Aso is Gentile Partino da Montefiore. He was born after the middle of the13th century, and became a very highly regarded Cardinal in the court of Pope Boniface VIII.
He joined the order of the ‘Frati Minori’ at a very young age, and he studied theology, grammar and philosophy. The Frati Minori is a Franciscan order, and in 1246 they had begun constructing a large monastery complex in Montefiore.
He was clearly an extremely intelligent boy, as he was selected to be sent for further study to the Sorbonne in Paris. There, he attained the level of ‘Magister’ in theology by 1294, being given the title ‘Doctor Parisinus’. The fact that the Partino family were able and willing to pay for such long term studies abroad is testament to their wealth and culture.
He returned to Italy in 1294, and, it is known that he met Benedetto Caetani (the future Pope Boniface VIII) in Perugia. The future Pope clearly had high regard for him, as, in 1296, he was honoured with the much coveted role of ‘lettore di teologia’ at the Papal Court.
He became a Cardinal in 1298, and only two years later, in March of the Jubilee year 1300, he was elevated to the position of ‘Fra’ Gentile Cardinale’ of the Basilica of Saints Silvestro e Martino ai Monti in Rome by Pope Boniface.
Gentile continued his work in Rome, and after the death of Boniface in 1303, the new Pope, Clement V, in 1307 sent him as Papal Legate to Hungary, with a court of 25 dignitaries. His mission was to secure the throne for a prince of the Anjou line, a task that he successfully fulfilled. He remained in Hungary until 1311.
A document dated March 1312 shows that Cardinal Gentile paid 600 golden florins for the construction and fresco decoration of a chapel in the Lower Basilica of San Frances in Assisi. It is believed that an unnamed sculptor-architect who built and decorated this chapel (possibly Simone Martini) also created the monumental tomb for Gentile Partino's parents in the Saint Francis church of Montefiore dell'Aso.
Records exist showing that he was in Perugia on 26th March 1312, when he was tasked with transferring the Papal treasures from Assisi to Avignon, and, en route to Avignon with a consignment of the papal treasure, it is said that he was attacked on the road by robbers. He later died in Lucca, on 27th October, 1312, never reaching Avignon.
He was buried under the altar of the church of Saint Ludovico, which stands next to the chapel of Saint Martin in the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, which he himself had commissioned. A portrait of Gentile, painted shortly after his death, hangs in the entrance to the chapel.