The result of an agreement between the various agencies and institutions including the Diocese of Sulmona-Valva, the City of Sulmona and the Superintendent the museum was established in late 2002 in the former convent of Santa Chiara, It occupies three different environments. Works are distributed around the cloister: the former chapel for the nuns - who from here could, through grates, participate in liturgical ceremonies in the adjoining church - in a smaller hall and in the former refectory.
To here works dating from the 12th to the 19th centuries were transferred from the cathedral and other churches in the city and Diocese. These range from paintings on wood and canvas to stone artifacts, from wooden sculptures to jewellery and weaving patterns, often hidden evidence of the intense spiritual, cultural and artistic life of the area. In another room there is a Christmas crib placed on permanent display.
MuseumThe first exhibition hall is housed in the Domus Orationis, the chapel reserved for the Poor Clares, where a medieval fresco cycle with stories from the life of Jesus and of Saint Francis was found and where two wall paintings from the first half of the 16th century are displayed. Here there are also works from the 12th to the 15th century including textiles such as a gold embroidered silk chasuble from the late 12th or early 13th centuries, from the treasury of the Cathedral of Sulmona and a silky maniple from the end of the 12th century. There are also wooden sculptures of the 14th and 15th centuries, the production of which was particularly significant in the region.
Among the jewellery on display are masterpieces from the 14th-century goldsmith shops of Sulmona, stamped with the distinctive stamp. There is also an important Calice con patena (chalice) in silver gilt and enamel work by the Sulmonese Ciccarello di Francesco di Bentevenga and the Pastorale, itself an expression of the prestigious goldsmiths’ school of Sulmona from the late 14th or early 15th century.
A smaller room, with paintings on wood and canvas of the 16th century and liturgical silverware, leads to the vast refectory - painted with the traditional Cenacolo - which houses a significant collection of sacred vestments ranging from the 15th to the 19th century, manuscripts - including the 13th century illuminated parchment codex Missale fratrum minorum - and ecclesiastical furnishings from the Baroque period to the 19th century including censers, chalices and monstrances.
Among the paintings, mostly altarpieces painted in oil on canvas, some are attributed to renowned artists, such as The Birth of the Virgin attributed to the Cavalier d'Arpino and the San Giacomo Apostolo attributed to Paolo Olmo from Bergamo. Of value is also the Madonna with Child and devotees attributed to the Sulmonese artist Alessandro Salini.
CribMade entirely of wood, and representing about four years of work with more than 1,100 pieces, it is arranged over an area of almost 12 square metres. It is a faithful and passionate reconstruction of life and crafts of Sulmona from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that the craftsman Enzo Mosca meticulously represented. Among the various "scenes" is the market - with more than 140 figures, some of whom are dressed, mostly the women, with typical Abruzzese costumes - and that of the Nativity, which becomes really just a moment within this nostalgic and tender revival of everyday life in the past.