Thursday, June 18, 2015

Giornale Adriatico-Mediterraneo VII: Assisi

photograph by Hallie Cohen
The seeds of Renaissance were planted in Assisi. One of Giotto’s frescoes in the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi literally shows the founder of an order based on its vows of poverty, holding up the church. If you believe there’s a God given order to life, you might say that the advent of Francis and the Franciscans was the way things were meant to be. Or you could look at it as matter of historical necessity or a product of human evolution. The net result was the democratization of deity. You might say that Francis’ contribution to Catholicism was tantamount to Copernicus’ understanding of the solar system. Both challenged the current conceptions of man’s place in the universe. Within two years after Francis’s death painters were flocking to Assisi and supplanting images of Christ with the human being who’d become a saint. Giotto depicts Francis with a halo; at the time an image like Saint Francis feeding birds must have been as radical a statement in terms of artistic and religious iconography as say Last Tango whose revolutionary impact Pauline Kael once compared to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The history of sensibility is rather dramatic and what was revolutionary in the 13th century is a far cry from what is going to make waves seven centuries later—though one can argue that Bertolucci like St. Francis was also exploring the nature of faith. Assisi is a tourist mecca filled with the usual reproductions and trinkets, which are an affront to everything Francis stood for.  But walk into the The Basilica of St. Claire named after the famed female compatriot of Francis and see her image to one of side of the crucifixion with that of Francis kissing Christ’s feet. Then walk out to see the vista where still sits the diminutive Porziuncola, the  church that Francis once occupied within the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli  If one of the most important aspects of Renaissance art was perspective, you’ll begin to get a feeling for the power of an idea whose time has come.

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