So, a little more detail on the arrangement of the
nave frescoes. The Life of St Francis scenes, the lower register in the
four bays, start on the north wall in what is usually known, someone
inconveniently, as bay four - the furthest from the east wall
entrance. The scenes then move along the north wall, on to the east
wall, then back along the south wall, so the final scene, scene 28, is
opposite the first scene in bay four.
The Old Testament scenes all come from Genesis. They are on the north
wall. They start in bay 4 with
the Creation of the World, and continue in the top register to the story
of Cain and Abel in bay 1. The story continues in the middle register
back in bay 4 with Noah's ark and the flood, ending in bay 1 with story
The New Testament scenes on the south wall follow the same plan,
which can be counter-intuitive, as for the viewer the scenes move from
right to left, the opposite direction to the Franciscan scenes
below. The top register shows the early life of Christ, starting
in bay 4 with the Annunciation and ending with the Baptism in bay 1. The
story then starts again with the middle register in bay 4, starting with
the wedding at Cana and proceeding through the Passion scenes to the
Three Women at the Tomb in Bay 4.
The first twelve Franciscan scenes are underneath Old Testament images; the
final twelve under New Testament ones. The four in the middle are
adjacent to, or on, the east wall. In each bay, there is a relationship
between the Franciscan episodes and the biblical ones above. What is
rather more subtle is that there are also relationships across
the bay between the Old and New Testament scenes and the Franciscan
scenes below them. One can imagine a
preacher standing in the centre of one of the bays, illustrating what he had
to say by pointing to the right and left. In addition, the images
overhead in the vault need to be considered too; sadly, some of these
were badly damaged in the earthquake of 1997.
This creates a problem. What is the best way to present the
images? The 28 Franciscan images are not strictly in chronological
order, but mostly so. Presenting the frescoes bay at a time helps to
understand the theology, but disrupts the narrative sequence.
My answer is to offer two versions of the images,
chronological, and bay at at a time.