Umbria Franciscan Itinerary La Verna – Assisi Part 3

This is an excerpt from the book “Umbria

Via di San Francesco - St. Francis Trail - Photo © Michele Tortioli
Via di San Francesco – St. Francis Trail – Photo © Michele Tortioli

La Verna and Montecasale (in Tuscany) have a great importance in the life of Saint Francis.

On the wall of the right-hand transept, Cimabue painted the group with the Madonna enthroned and Saint Francis , which is highly renowned since the figure of the Saint has always been considered to come closest to being a faithful portrait of the Poverello.

Of additional importance is the cycle of frescoes in the left-hand arm of the transept, representing the “stories of the Passion of Christ” painted by Pietro Lorenzetti (first decades of the 14th century). Intensely dramatic in impact is the Deposition of Jesus from the cross followed by Saint Francis receiving the stigmata and the Crucifixion. The painting by Lorenzetti The Madonna of the sunsets represents the Virgin with Christ in spiritual conversation with Saints John the Evangelist and Francis.

The lower Basilica contains several relics of the Saint, including the authentic text of the rule of the first Franciscan order and the Saint’s precious habit. Stairs lead down to the crypt and the Saint’s tomb (he was buried here on 25th May 1230). The Saint’s followers were buried around his tomb in 1932.

Via di San Francesco - St. Francis Trail - Photo © Michele Tortioli - proprietà Regione Umbria
Via di San Francesco – St. Francis Trail – Photo © Michele Tortioli – proprietà Regione Umbria

Upper Basilica

The upper Basilica, with a Latin cross plan, consists of a single nave, with four spans and a pentagonal apse. The interior of the building, lit by large stained glass windows set into the walls of the nave, has a wealth of precious fresco cycles. Cimabue, in 1280, painted a fresco cycle in the apse area and in the transept. Nowadays, these works resemble photographic negatives as a result of chemical alterations which have taken place with the passing of time. Cimabue’s Crucifixion is one such example. The nave contains frescoes by Giotto and other Roman and Tuscan masters telling the story of the life of the Poverello d’Assisi, inspired by the biography of Saint Francis written by St. Bonaventure

In the nave, beneath the Scenes of the New and Old Testament painted by Giacomo Torriti, Pietro Cavallini and other Roman and Tuscan artists, is the great fresco cycle of the life of Saint Francis by Giotto. It consists of 28 episodes.
The cycle starts on the right-hand wall, just before the transept and also covers the counter-façade and the whole of the left-hand wall. All the scenes are characterized by the three-dimensional representation of space, in which bodies and objects acquire an increased plastic impact. The young Giotto’s skilful use of color and his effortless drawing give the frescoes a sense of great realism, which would become a constant feature in all his later works.

A radical renewal of painting as an art form began with this cycle.

All the episodes are famous but there are four scenes in particular in which the dramatic force of the represented event is rendered with very few elements (derived from a direct view of reality) and shown through the expressions and faces of the figures: St. Francis’ renunciation of worldly goods (c. 1290), the Miracle of the spring, the Sermon to the birds, St. Francis preaching before Honorius III. The Treasury of the basilica houses an exhibition of precious works of art and numerous gifts that pilgrims from all over the world (popes, kings, rich and poor) have laid on the saint’s tomb over the years. It also contains the prestigious Perkins collection (collection of 57 pieces belonging to F. Mason Perkins), donated by the art critic to the Holy Convent of San Francesco.

End of the excerpt from the book “Umbria

Church of San Damiano – (Assisi)

Assisi Basilica di Santa Chiara
Assisi Basilica di Santa Chiara – Photo © Michele Tortioli – proprietà Regione Umbria

Basilica di Santa Chiara – (Assisi)

Assisi Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli
Assisi Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli – Photo © Michele Tortioli – proprietà Regione Umbria

Basilica of S. Maria degli Angeli – (Assisi)

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