St Francis, who died in 1226 is still inspiring artists and exhibition curators. The National Gallery has opened a new show dedicated to this forward thinking , kind and environmentally aware man.
Over the years , like many artists, I have been inspired by his kind heart, and the love and respect he had for all living things.
In the 1990’s I was lucky enough to spend time with some lovely staff and students from Exeter University as a practising artist in Italy, where they were researching art history and making fresco’s . My visit to Assisi, and the Basilica of San Francisco was one I will never forget, the beauty of its interior paintings by Giotto took my breath away, his wonderful painted stories covered the walls , and the lapis lazuli blue of the ceiling with gold stars felt as near as one might get to heaven in pure colour .
In Florence I sat with a friend in a piazza, and later painted the memory of us sitting outside a cafe, resting our tired feet while local pigeons bobbed about hoping for some of our lunch. Behind us was the Basilica of Santa Croce .
I was drawn to the Basilica because it has such unusual stone work outside , but inside it holds mesmerising architecture and artwork at every turn. One unusual item is the religious relic of a robe said to have belonged to St Francis, another neck cricking, jaw dropping sight are Giotto’s seven narrative fresco’s in the Bardi Chapel, which illustrate the life of St Francis.
The National Gallery show is on until July I believe, I find it heartening to see a man of faith so ahead of his time celebrated and remembered.
I stood below a beech And said to stillness, teach Tranquility. I told Dumb patient earth to hold My unquiet mind from speech. A cole tit in the tree Pecked, flitted, marked by me Around whom nothing stirred But this food-finding bird. The moments passed; and I No self-concernment knew But one small-purposed thing Which from my presence flew on deft unstartled wing... And I was tranquil too. "An Example" by Siegfried Sassoon.