Upper Church: Bay 4



North wall

Old Testament images. Top register: The creation of the World,  The creation of Adam. Middle register: Noah building the ark, the flood. (mostly lost.) 
Franciscan images: 1. Francis is honoured by a simple man. 2. Francis gives his cloak to a poor man. 3. The vision of the palace filled with arms in Spoleto. 

The Old Testament images show beginnings: the Creation, and the 'fresh start' following the flood. The first Franciscan image is taken from Bonaventure 1.1: 'A certain citizen of Assisi was regarded as a simpleton, yet he was one taught of God. When he met Francis going through the city, he would take off his cloak and spread the garment before his feet, declaring that Francis was worthy of great honour'. 
  This can be seen as another 'fresh start' to redeeming sinful world. There is also a clear reference to the entry of Christ into Jerusalem. 
  The building in the fresco is taken from life. It is the Temple of Minerva, once a pagan place of worship, then a church, which it still is; another fresh start.  Francis giving his cloak to a poor man is a clear link with St Martin. 
  The vision of the palace, based on Bonaventura 1.3, requires a little more explanation. Francis dreamed of a palace full of weapons, and, as a young soldier, rushed off there to offer his services. He heard the voice Christ on his journey telling him to renounce military glory.
South wall


New Testament scenes. Top register: the Visitation, the Annunciation. Middle register:  The raising of Lazarus The wedding at Cana.
Franciscan scenes, 26. The immediate healing of John of Lerida in Catalonia. 27. The confession of the woman brought back to life. 
28. St. Francis frees Peter of  Alife.

The New Testament scenes echo the Scenes on the north wall - beginnings. There is another theme here too, that of miracles, with clear parallels between the Gospel stories and the legends of St Francis. 
  The Franciscan scenes show posthumous miracles. John of Lerida was healed on his death bed, while the woman was brought back to life, echoing the raising of Lazarus above.
  The third scene shows Francis flying in to release from prison a man accused of heresy. There is a good deal going on here. The parallel is with the story of St Peter imprisoned in Rome, who, in preaching Christianity, was also guilty of heresy. In his case, angels broke his chains and released him.  To underline this connection, although Alife is in Campania, to the south, the two other 'real' buildings in the image are both in Rome: the tower to the right is a colourful version of Trajan's column.
  At the time the basilica was being decorated accusations of heresy were still being directed at the Franciscans, and no doubt this is also a reference to that. 
  A miracle of Francis not included in the basilica refers directly to the wedding at Cana. Bonaventure (V 10) refers to an occasion at the hermitage of St Urban, where a sickly Francis called for wine, but was told that there was none. He called for water, blessed it, and made the sign of the cross over it.  'At once that which had been pure water became excellent wine, and that which the poverty of the lonely place could not provide was obtained by the purity of the holy man.' 
  The commissioners of the frescoes may have felt that this story, although vouched for by Bonaventure, may not have convinced everyone.

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