Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thurs, Nov 29, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog: Obedience, Revelation 18, Psalm 100, Luke 21:20-28, Saint Francis Anthony Fasani, Order of Friars Minor Conventual, Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Thursday, November 29, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog:

Obedience, Revelation 18, Psalm 100, Luke 21:20-28, Saint Francis Anthony Fasani, Order of Friars Minor Conventual , Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Good Day Bloggers! 
Wishing everyone a Blessed Week!
Year of Faith - October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013

P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Serenity Happens). It has a remarkable way of producing solace, peace, patience and tranquility and of course resolution...God's always available 24/7.

We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift knowledge and free will as well, make the most of it. Life on earth is a stepping to our eternal home in Heaven. Its your choice whether to rise towards eternal light or lost to eternal darkness. Material items, though needed for sustenance and survival on earth are of earthly value only. The only thing that passes from this earth to Purgatory and/or Heaven is our Soul, our's God's perpetual gift to us...Embrace it, treasure it, nurture it, protect it...

"Raise not a hand to another unless it is to offer in peace and goodwill." ~ Zarya Parx 2012


November 25, 2012 Message From Our Lady of Medjugorje to World:

“Dear children! In this time of grace, I call all of you to renew prayer. Open yourselves to Holy Confession so that each of you may accept my call with the whole heart. I am with you and I protect you from the ruin of sin, but you must open yourselves to the way of conversion and holiness, that your heart may burn out of love for God. Give Him time and He will give Himself to you and thus, in the will of God you will discover the love and the joy of living. Thank you for having responded to my call.” ~ Blessed Virgin Mary

November 02, 2012 Message From Our Lady of Medjugorje to World:

"Dear children, as a mother I implore you to persevere as my apostles. I am praying to my Son to give you Divine wisdom and strength. I am praying that you may discern everything around you according to God’s truth and to strongly resist everything that wants to distance you from my Son. I am praying that you may witness the love of the Heavenly Father according to my Son. My children, great grace has been given to you to be witnesses of God’s love. Do not take the given responsibility lightly. Do not sadden my motherly heart. As a mother I desire to rely on my children, on my apostles. Through fasting and prayer you are opening the way for me to pray to my Son for Him to be beside you and for His name to be holy through you. Pray for the shepherds because none of this would be possible without them. Thank you."
~ Blessed Virgin Mary

October 25, 2012 Message From Our Lady of Medjugorje to World:

"Dear children! Today I call you to pray for my intentions. Renew fasting and prayer because Satan is cunning and attracts many hearts to sin and perdition. I call you, little children, to holiness and to live in grace. Adore my Son so that He may fill you with His peace and love for which you yearn. Thank you for having responded to my call." ~ Blessed Virgin Mary


Today's Word:  obedience  o·be·di·ence  [oh-bee-dee-uh ns]

Origin:  1150–1200; Middle English  < Old French  < Latin oboedientia.  See obedient, -ence

1. the state or quality of being obedient.
2. the act or practice of obeying; dutiful or submissive compliance: Military service demands obedience from its members.
3. a sphere of authority or jurisdiction, especially ecclesiastical.
4. Chiefly Ecclesiastical .

a. conformity to a monastic rule or the authority of a religious superior, especially on the part of one who has vowed such conformance.
b. the rule or authority that exacts such conformance.


Today's Old Testament Reading -  Psalms 100:2-5

2 serve Yahweh with gladness, come into his presence with songs of joy!
3 Be sure that Yahweh is God, he made us, we belong to him, his people, the flock of his sheepfold.
4 Come within his gates giving thanks, to his courts singing praise, give thanks to him and bless his name!
5 For Yahweh is good, his faithful love is everlasting, his constancy from age to age.


Today's Epistle - Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9 

1 After this, I saw another angel come down from heaven, with great authority given to him; the earth shone with his glory.
2 At the top of his voice he shouted, 'Babylon has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, and has become the haunt of devils and a lodging for every foul spirit and dirty, loathsome bird.
21 Then a powerful angel picked up a boulder like a great millstone, and as he hurled it into the sea, he said, 'That is how the great city of Babylon is going to be hurled down, never to be seen again.
22 Never again in you will be heard the song of harpists and minstrels, the music of flute and trumpet; never again will craftsmen of every skill be found in you or the sound of the handmill be heard;
23 never again will shine the light of the lamp in you, never again will be heard in you the voices of bridegroom and bride. Your traders were the princes of the earth, all the nations were led astray by your sorcery.
1 After this I heard what seemed to be the great sound of a huge crowd in heaven, singing, 'Alleluia! Salvation and glory and power to our God!
2 He judges fairly, he punishes justly, and he has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her prostitution; he has avenged the blood of his servants which she shed.'
3 And again they sang, 'Alleluia! The smoke of her will rise for ever and ever.'
9 The angel said, 'Write this, "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb," ' and he added, 'These words of God are true.'


Today's Gospel Reading - Luke 21:20-28

Jesus said to his disciples: 'When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you must realise that it will soon be laid desolate. Then those in Judaea must escape to the mountains, those inside the city must leave it, and those in country districts must not take refuge in it. For this is the time of retribution when all that scripture says must be fulfilled. Alas for those with child, or with babies at the breast, when those days come! 'For great misery will descend on the land and retribution on this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive to every gentile country; and Jerusalem will be trampled down by the gentiles until their time is complete.'There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the turmoil of the ocean and its waves; men fainting away with terror and fear at what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.'
• In today’s Gospel we have the continuation of the Apocalyptic Discourse which gives two signs, the 7th and the 8th, which should take place before the end of time or better before the coming of the end of this world in order to give place to the new world, to the “new Heavens and the New Earth” (Is 65, 17). The seventh sign is the destruction of Jerusalem and the eighth is the upsetting of the old creation.

• Luke 21, 20-24. The seventh sign: the destruction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was for them the Eternal City. And now it was destroyed! How can this fact be explained? Is it possible that God is not aware of this? It is difficult for us to imagine the trauma and the crisis of faith that the destruction of Jerusalem caused in the communities both of the Jews and of the Christians. Here it is possible to make an observation on the composition of the Gospel of Luke and of Mark. Luke writes in the year 85. He uses the Gospel of Mark to compose his narrative on Jesus. Mark writes in the year 70, the same year in which Jerusalem was surrounded and destroyed by the Roman armies. This is why Mark writes giving an indication to the reader: “When you see the appalling abomination set up where it ought not to be – (and here he opens a parenthesis and says) “let the reader understand!”) (he closes the parenthesis) - then those in Judaea must escape to the mountains” (Mk 13, 14). When Luke mentions the destruction of Jerusalem, for the past fifteen years Jerusalem was in ruins. This is why he omits the parenthesis of Mark and Luke says: “When you will see Jerusalem surrounded by the army, then you must realize that it will soon be laid desolate. Then those in Judaea must escape to the mountains, those inside the city must leave it, and those in country districts must not take refuge in it; for this is the time of retribution when all that Scripture says must be fulfilled. Alas for those with child, or with babies at the breast, when those days come. For great misery will descend on the land and retribution on this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive to every gentile country; and Jerusalem will be trampled down by gentiles until their time is complete”. Hearing Jesus who announces persecution (6th sign) and the destruction of Jerusalem (7th sign), the readers of the persecuted communities in the time of Luke concluded saying: “This is our day! We are in the 6th and 7th signs!”

• Luke 21, 25-26: The eighth sign: changes in the sun and in the moon. When will the end come? At the end, after having spoken about all these signs which had already been realized, there was still the following question: “God’s project is very much advanced and the stages foreseen by Jesus are already being realized. We are in the sixth and the seventh stages, how many stages or signs are still lacking until the end arrives? Is there much lacking?” The response is now given in the 8th sign: "There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the turmoil of the ocean and its waves; men fainting away with terror and fear at what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken”. The 8th sign is different from the other signs. The signs in heaven and on earth are an indication of what is taking place, at the same time, at the end of the old world, of the ancient creation, it is the beginning of the coming of the new Heaven and the new earth. When the shell of the egg begins to crack it is a sign that the novelty is about to appear. It is the coming of a New World which is provoking the disintegration of the ancient world. Conclusion: very little is lacking! The Kingdom of God is arriving already!

• Luke 21, 27-28: The coming of the Kingdom of God and the appearance of the Son of Man. “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect; hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand”. In this announcement, Jesus describes the coming of the Kingdom with images taken from the prophecy of Daniel (Dn 7, 1-14). Daniel says that, after the misfortunes caused by the kingdoms of this world, the Kingdom of God will come. The kingdoms of this world, all of them, had the figure of an animal: lion, panther, bear, and ferocious beast (Dn 7, 3-7). These are animal signs which dehumanize life, like it happens with the neo-liberal kingdom, today! The Kingdom of God then appears with the aspect of the Son of Man, that is, with a human aspect (Dn 7, 13). It is a human kingdom. To construct this kingdom which humanizes is the task of the persons of the community. It is the new history that we have to take to fulfilment and which brings together people from the four corners of the earth. The title Son of Man is the name that Jesus liked to use. In the four Gospels this name appears more than 80 times (eighty)! Any pain which we bear from now, any struggle in behalf of life, any persecution for the sake of justice, any birth pangs, are a seed of the Kingdom which will come in the 8th sign.
Personal questions
• Persecution of the communities, destruction of Jerusalem. Lack of hope. Before the events which today make people suffer, do I despair? Which is the source of my hope?
• Son of Man is the title which Jesus liked to use. He wants to humanize life. The more human it is the more divine as Pope Leo the Great said. Am I human in my relationships with others? Do I humanize?

Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites,


Featured Item of the Day from Litany Lane


Saint of the Day:   Francis Anthony Fasani, O.F.M. Conv

Feast Day:  November 29
Patron Saint:  Order of Conventual Friars Minor

St. Francis Anthony Fasani, O.F.M. Conv., (August 6, 1681—November 29, 1742) was an Italian friar of the Order of Conventual Friars Minor who has been declared a saint by the Catholic Church. He was a friend of another Conventual friar, the Blessed Antonio Lucci.

He was born Giovanniello Fasani on August 6, 1681, in Lucera, in the Province of Foggia, then part of the Kingdom of Naples. He was the son of Giuseppe Fasani and Isabella della Monaca.[1] He began his studies at the Conventual friary in his town and there entered the Order, taking the religious names of Saints Francis and Anthony. Fasani professed his religious vows in 1696.

Religious Life

Once having professed his vows, Fasani began theological studies in Agnone and continued them in the General Study Centre at Assisi, close to the tomb of St. Francis. It was there that Fasani was ordained to the priesthood in 1705. He stayed in Assisi and completed his theological studies there in 1707.

From 1707 until his death in 1742, Fasani spent the rest of life in residence in his hometown of Lucera and endeared himself to the faithful of that town and all of Daunia and Molise. In 1709, he received the degree of Doctor of Theology and, from that time on, Fasani became known to all as "Padre Maestro" ("Father Master"), a title which is still attributed to him today in Lucera. Fasani also fulfilled many duties in the Franciscan Order, being a respected teacher of scholastic philosophy and was entrusted with the position of Master of novices and the junior professed friars. He was later appointed to serve as the guardian of the community of friars and the pastor of the town. He came to be elected Minister Provincial of his province in the Order.[2]

Fasani was known for having a deep life of prayer and was considered to be a mystic, becoming greatly in demand as a confessor and preacher. He constantly preached popular parish missions, gave retreats and led Lenten devotions and novenas - either in his own town or wherever he was requested.[1] It was reported by his contemporaries that he would levitate while at prayer. At the same time, he was a steadfast friend of the poor, constantly seeking out the financial support for efforts to meet their needs.[3]

Fasani died in Lucera and was buried in the parish church there. Upon the news of his death, children could be heard running through the streets shouting, "The saint is dead! The saint is dead!"[3]


The proceedings to open the cause for his canonization began several years after his death. Testimony to his holy given was given by many people of region. Among them was his old friend, Lucci, who by then was a bishop in the region. Progress did not take place, however, until the 20th century, when he was beatified in 1951, and subsequently canonized in 1986.[1] His feast day is celebrated by the Franciscan Order on 27 November.


      1. ^ a b c Vatican News Service "Francis Anthony Fasani"
      2. ^ American Catholic "St. Francesco Antonio Fasani"
      3. ^ a b Patron Saint Index "Saint Francesco Antonio Fasani"

        Featured Items Panel from Litany Lane


        Today's  Snippet  I:  Order of Friars Minor Conventual

        "The Confirmation of the Franciscan Rule"
        by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494),
        Capella Sassetti, Florence.
        The Order of Friars Minor Conventual (OFM Conv), commonly known as the Conventual Franciscans, is a branch of the order of Catholic Friars founded by Francis of Assisi in 1209.

        The Order of Friars Minor Conventual sought to spread the ideals of Saint Francis throughout the new urban social order of the Middle Ages. Some friars settled in the urban slums, or the suburbs the medieval neighbourhoods where the huts and shacks of the poorest were built outside the safety of the city walls. In London, the first settlement of the friars was set in what was called "Stinking Lane."

        Since the suburbs were also the place where hospitals were set up, the friars were often commissioned by the city government to facilitate the care of the sick. The friars also helped to construct sturdier buildings, replacing the previous huts, and constructed churches. Robert Grosseteste, then Bishop of Lincoln, marvelled that the people "run to the friars for instruction as well as for confession and direction. They are transforming the world."

        The movement of the Conventual Franciscans into the cities was controversial and split the Franciscan Order into two factions: those who desired the traditional Franciscan life of solitary meditation in rural areas, and those who desired to live together in friaries and work among the urban poor like the Conventual Franciscans. This latter group was first known as the "Friars of the Community," but by 1250 they were also referred to as Fratres Conventuales, however, their official title remained Fratres Minores until the division of 1517, when these followers of Saint Francis became definitively known as Fratres Minores Conventuales or the Friars Minor Conventual.

        Though keeping Francis' remains in the Basilica of St. Francis, generally the Conventuals did not remain at the sites associated with Francis's actual presence. The Friars of the Community sought to take Francis's ideals to the far reaches of a universal Church. After the founder's death, they began the task of translating Francis's earthly existence into a socially relevant message for current and future generations.

        The Conventual Franciscans nestled their large group homes into small areas of land surrounded by poverty. They used their abilities to combat the hardships and injustices of the poverty stricken areas where they settled. The friaries focused on disciplined austerity, generosity, harmonized prayer, and service to others.

        Saints of the Order

        After the separation from the OFM Franciscans, the Order has three saints:
        • Joseph of Copertino
        • Francis Fasani
        • Maximilian Kolbe


        • Robinson, Paschal. "Order of Friars Minor Conventuals." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 29 Nov. 2012 <>.


          Today's  Snippet  IIPapal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

          Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
          The Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi (Italian: Basilica Papale di San Francesco, Latin: Basilica Sancti Francisci Assisiensis) is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor—commonly known as the Franciscan Order—in Assisi, Italy, the city where St. Francis was born and died. The basilica is one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy. With its accompanying friary, the basilica is a distinctive landmark to those approaching Assisi. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

          The basilica, which was begun in 1228, is built into the side of a hill and comprises two churches known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church, and a crypt where the remains of the saint are interred. The interior of the Upper Church is an important early example of the Gothic style in Italy. The Upper and Lower Churches are decorated with frescoes by numerous late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools, and include works by Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti and possibly Pietro Cavallini. The range and quality of the works gives the basilica a unique importance in demonstrating the development of Italian art of this period.


          Basilica and friary, as seen from the plain below
          The Franciscan friary (Sacro Convento) and the Lower and Upper Basilicas (Italian: Basilica inferiore e superiore) of Francis of Assisi were begun in honor of this local saint, immediately after his canonization in 1228. Simone di Pucciarello donated the land for the church, a hill at the west side of Assisi, known as "Hill of Hell" (Italian: Colle d'Inferno) where previously criminals were put to death. Today, this hill is called "Hill of Paradise".

          On 16 July 1228, Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX in Assisi, and he laid the foundation stone of the new church the following day, although construction may already have been begun. The construction having been begun at his order, the Pope declared the church to be the property of the papacy. The church was designed and supervised by Brother Elias of Cortona, one of the first followers of St. Francis and the former Vicar General of the Order under St. Francis. The Lower Basilica was finished in 1230. On Pentecost 25 May 1230, the uncorrupted body of St. Francis was brought in a solemn procession to the Lower Basilica from its temporary burial place in the church of St. George, now the Basilica of Saint Clare of Assisi. The burial place was concealed for fear that St Francis' remains might be stolen and dispersed. The construction of the Upper Basilica was begun after 1239 and was completed in 1253. Both churches were consecrated by Pope Innocent IV in 1253.

          Pope Nicholas IV, a former Minister-General of the Order of Franciscans, raised the church to the status of Papal Church in 1288. The Piazza del Loge, the square leading to the church, is surrounded by colonnades constructed in 1474. They housed the numerous pilgrims flocking to this church. In 1818, the remains of St Francis were rediscovered beneath the floor of the Lower Basilica. In the reign of Pope Pius IX the crypt was built so that the faithful might visit the burial place of the saint.

          On 27 October 1986 and January 2002, Pope John Paul II gathered in Assisi with more than 120 representatives of different religions and Christian denominations for a World Day of Prayer for Peace.

          Earthquake of 1997

          On the morning of September 26, 1997, two earthquakes hit that region of Italy in rapid succession, registering 5.5 and 6.1 respectively on the Richter Scale. There was widespread devastation and many ancient buildings were destroyed or damaged. While a group of specialists and friars were inspecting the damage to the Basilica of St. Francis, an aftershock shook the building, causing the collapse of the vault. Two Franciscan friars who were among the group and two of the specialists were killed. Much of the cycle of frescoes of the life of St. Francis by Giotto in the Upper Church of the Basilica were destroyed in the collapse. The church was closed for two years for restoration.


          The basilica was designed by a follower of St. Francis, Brother Elia Bombadone. The construction may have commenced before the official laying of the foundation stone. (see above History). The Basilica was designed on two levels, each of which is consecrated as a church. They are known as the "Basilica superiore" (The Upper Basilica), generally called "The Upper Church" and the "Basilica inferiore" (The Lower Basilica), generally called "The Lower Church". The Lower Church was structurally a large crypt supporting the upper one. In the 19th century a lower crypt was constructed beneath the basilica. Architecturally, the exterior of the basilica appears united with the Friary of St. Francis, since the lofty arcades of the latter support and buttress the church in its apparently precarious position on the hillside.

          The architecture is a synthesis of the Romanesque and Gothic styles, and established many of the typical characteristics of Italian Gothic architecture. As originally built, both upper and lower churches had a simple cruciform plan with an aisless nave of four square bays, a square crossing, a transept that projected by half a bay one each side, and an apse, the lower being semicircular and the upper polygonal. To the left of the church stands a free-standing bell tower of Romanesque design.

          The Lower Church was built entirely in the Romanesque style, having a low semi-circular ribbed cross-vaults over the nave and barrel vaults over the transept arms. However, the space has been greatly extended with a number of lateral and transept chapels added between 1350 and 1400. The main entrance to the nave is through an ornate Gothic doorway built between 1280 and 1300, and later enclosed with a simple Renaissance style porch of 1487 by Francesco da Pietrasanta. Set in the tympanum of the Gothic doorway is an ornate rose window which has been called "the eye of the most beautiful church in the world"

          The Upper Church has a façade of white-washed brick divided into two horizontal zones of about equal height, and with a simple gable of height equal to the lower zones. There is a single large doorway in the Gothic style, divided by a column and with a rose window set in the tympanun above the two cusped arches. Above the door, in the second zone is a large and ornate rose window in which most of the decorative details are Romanesque in style. Surrounding it are carved the symbols of the Four Evangelists, combining with the window to create a square composition. Above it in the gable is an ocular window. To the left of the façade and visible from both the forecourts of the Upper Church and the Lower Church is the Benediction Loggia in the Baroque style which was built in 1754, when the church was raised to the status of basilica.

          Internally, the Upper Church maintains Brother Elias' original simple aisleless cruciform plan. Like the Lower Church, there is a nave of four bays with ribbed cross-vaulting. Unlike that of the Lower Church, it is only the diagonal ribs which are of semi-circular form. The transverse ribs are pointed in the Gothic manner, and thus rise to the full height of the wider diagonal ribs. Each group of ribs springs from a group of clustered columns. Externally the columns and vault are supported by stout buttresses of semi-circular plan. Unlike the Lower Church, the transepts also have ribbed vaulting.

          There are tall Gothic windows with Geometric tracery in each bay of the nave and in the polygonal apse of the chancel. The windows of the apse are believed to have been created by German craftsmen active around Assisi at the end of the 13th century. The windows on the left hand side of the nave were made by a French workshop (1270), while those on the right hand side are attributed to the workshop of Maestro di San Francesco. These stained glass windows are among the best examples of 13th c. Italian glasswork.

          As is characteristic of Italian church architecture, the main decorative feature, and the main medium used for conveying the Church's message is fresco, rather than stained glass. The earliest frescoes are some of those in the Lower Church. The work proceeded with a number of different projects and appears to have involved numerous artists, some of whom are as renowned as Cimabue and Giotto, but many of whom are no longer known by name.

          Upper Basilica

          Nave of the upper basilica.
          This bright and spacious basilica consists of a single four-bay nave with cross-vaulted ceiling bordered with patterns of crosses and leaves, a transept and a polygonal apse. The four ribbed vaults are decorated alternately with golden stars on a blue background and paintings. The second vault is decorated with roundels with busts of Christ facing St. Francis and the Virgin facing St. John the Baptist. The entrance vault gives us the Four Latin Doctors of the Church: St Gregory facing St. Jerome and St. Ambrose facing St. Augustine. These are ascribed to the Isaac Master. The choir has 102 wooden stalls with carvings and marquetry by Domenico Indovini (1501). In their centre, on a raised platform, stands the papal cathedra.

          Crucifixion by Cimabue
          The west end of the transept and the apse have been decorated with many frescoes by Cimabue and his workshop (starting in c. 1280). The magnificent Crucifixion, with St. Francis on his knees at the foot of the Cross, stresses again the veneration of the Passion of Christ by St. Francis. Sadly, the frescoes of Cimabue soon suffered from damp and decay. Due to the use of lead oxide in his colours and to the fact that the colours were applied when the plaster was no longer fresh, they have deteriorated and have been reduced to photographic negatives. Prior to him there had been some decorations in the upper right hand section of the transept by an (anonymous) Northern Master, probably an English artist (1267–1270). He realized the two lunettes and the roundels on the west wall with paintings of the Angel and the Apostles. Another (anonymous) master, the Roman Master, painted the Isaiah and the David and the remainder of the wall under the eastern lunette.

          Isaac rejects Esau
          The upper part on both sides of the nave, badly damaged by the earthquake of 1997, was decorated in two rows with in total 32 scenes from the Old Testament (starting with Creation of the World and ending with Joseph forgives his brothers) and the New Testament (from the Annunciation to The Women at the Tomb), while the upper register of the entrance wall is covered with two frescoes Pentecost and Ascension of Jesus. Since it took about six months to paint one bay of the nave, different Roman and Tuscan masters, followers of Cimabue, have performed this series of scenes such as Giacomo, Jacopo Torriti and Pietro Cavallini.

          The two frescoes of the life of Isaac (Isaac blesses Jacob and Esau in front of Isaac) in the middle register of the third bay, are traditionally ascribed to the young Giotto (1290–1295) (previously wrongly ascribed to Cimabue by Vasari). But even this has been controversial. Many critics esteem these the work of the anonymous Isaac Master and his workshop. Deducing from stylistic details, attesting to his Roman background, some think that the Isaac Master may have been Pietro Cavallini or a follower. Pietro Cavallini had painted around 1290 a similar fresco Isaac blessing Jacob in the convent of the church Santa Cecilia in Trastevere in Rome. The position of the resting Isaac looks like the same position of the Virgin in Cavallini's mosaic Birth of the Virgin in the apse of the church Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome. The Isaac Master is considered one of the first practitioners of the true fresco (buon fresco) technique.

          St Francis preaches in the presence of pope Honorius III
          But the most important decorations are the series of 28 frescoes ascribed to the young Giotto along the lower part of the nave. Each bay contains three frescoes above the dado on each side of the nave, two frescoes in the east galleries beside the entrance, and two more on the entrance wall. Giotto used the Legenda Maior, the biography of St. Francis by St. Bonaventure (1266) to reconstruct the major events in the life of St. Francis. The prototype for this cycle may have been the (now lost) St Francis cycle by Pietro Cavallini in the church San Francesco a Ripa in Rome. The paintings are so vivid, as if Giotto had been a witness to these events. According to Vasari, they were executed in the period between 1296 and 1304.

          However the authorship of Giotto is disputed, due to the ambiguous attributions given in early descriptions of this work. Many Italian critics continue to support the authorship of Giotto and his workshop. But because of small differences in style with the frescoes of Isaac, it is thought that several or even all of these frescoes were painted by at least three separate painters, using the original concept of Giotto : the Master of Legend of St. Francis (the principal painter and probable supervisor of the cycle), the Master of the Obsequies of St. Francis and the Cecilia Master.

          The first span of the ceiling is decorated with frescoes of the "Four Doctors of the Church“ ( Jerome, Augustine, Gregory and Ambrose), attributed either to a young Giotto or to one of his followers. The third span presents four heart-shaped medallions of the Christ, Mary, John the Baptist and Francis, painted by Jacopo Torriti.  The cuspidate façade of the upper basilica has a portal in Gothic style with twin doors and a beautiful rose window.

          Lower Basilica

          Side entrance to the lower basilica.
          Brother Elias had designed the lower basilica as an enormous crypt with ribbed vaults. He had acquired his experience by building huge sepulchres out of hard rock in Syria.

          The doors are surmounted by a large rose window, flanked by two smaller ones, called "the eye of the most beautiful church in the world" The decorations on the left wooden door were executed by Ugolinuccio da Gubbio (circa 1550) and those on the right door by an anonymous Umbrian artist (1573). They portray stories from the lives of St. Francis, St. Clare, St. Louis and St. Anthony. On the left wall of the porch stands the bust of Pope Benedict XIV who granted this church the title of Patriarchal Basilica and Cappella Papale. Pope Benedict XVI’s theological act in 2006 of renouncing the title of "Patriarch of the West" has had the consequence of the basilica changing its name to that of the Papal Basilica of St. Francis.

          Entering the lower basilica, one sees at the other side of the vestibule the chapel of St. Catherine of Alexandria, erected about 1270. It was enlarged by Gattapone da Gubbio and decorated at the expense of Cardinal Egidio Albornoz, papal legate in charge of the Papal States (from 1350 to 1367). He was initially buried here but his body was later transferred to Toledo, Spain. The frescoes with the eight episodes from the life of St. Catherine were painted in 1368-1369 by ‘Andreas pictor de Bononia’. This painter, called Andrea, is most probably Andrea de’ Bartoli (c. 1349 - 1369), the court artist of Albornoz (and not Andrea da Bologna, as usually, but wrongly, attributed). The saints in this chapel were painted by Pace di Bartolo d'Assisi (1344–1368). The stained glass windows are the work of Giovanni di Bonino of Assisi (mid 14th century).

          On the left side of the entrance is the small Chapel of St. Sebastian with a canvas by Giorgetti and episodes of the life of the saint on the walls painted c. 1646 by G. Martelli (Irene taking care of St. Sebastian; St. Sebastian before Domitian). The left wall of this chapel is decorated by some paintings by Ottaviano Nelli (15th century) and a painting of St. Christopher (Umbrian School, 14 th century).

          On the right side of the entrance there are two monuments by anonymous artists: in the first span, the mausoleum of Giovanni de' Cerchi, surmounted by an early 14th century porphyry vase (a gift of a queen of Cyprus) and the mausoleum of John of Brienne, king of Jerusalem and emperor-regent of Constantinople. Above this last burial monument stands a statue of the Blessed Virgin and on its left the figure of a crowned woman seated on a lion, made by Cosmatesco (1290).

          The badly deteriorating frescoes on the walls and the vaults of the third section of this entrance are the work of Cesare Sermei and G. Martelli (1645). The chapel on the right side of the third section is dedicated to St. Anthony the Abbot. The niches in the wall contain the burial monuments of the Governor of Spoleto (by then part of the Papal States) Blasco Fernandez and his son Garcia, both assassinated in 1367 (anonymous local artist, 14th century).

          The lower basilica consists of a central nave with several side chapels with semi-circular arches. The nave is decorated with the oldest frescoes in the church by an unknown artist, called Maestro di San Francesco. They feature five scenes from the Passion of Christ on the right side, while on the left side equally five scenes from the Life of St. Francis. By this juxtaposition, the Franciscans wanted to contribute to the idea of their founder as a second Christ.

          They are connected by a low blue-painted ceiling decorated with golden stars. Most images on the lower walls have decayed to leave almost no trace, except on the right wall fragments of Virgin and Child with an Angel by Cimabue.

          These frescoes, executed in tempera on dry plaster, were completed about 1260-1263. They are considered by many as the best examples of Tuscan wall paintings prior to Cimabue. As the popularity of this church increased, side chapels for noble families were added between 1270 and 1350, destroying the frescoes on the opened walls.

          The first chapel on the left is the San Martino Chapel, dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours. It was built by the Franciscan Cardinal Gentile Partino da Montefiore and was decorated between 1317 and 1319 with ten frescoes depicting the saint's life by Simone Martini. This dedication most likely referred to the Cardinal's position as Cardinal-Priest of the Basilica of St. Martin "ai Monti" in Rome, and was intended to be his burial place. It was probably incomplete at the time of Montefiore's death (October 1312), thus he was interred in the neighboring Chapel of St. Louis. Martini also painted a triptych depicting the Madonna and Child with Two Hungarian Royal Saints with a row of five attendant saints in the St. Elizabeth Chapel (southern arm of the transept). These are among the greatest Martini's works and the finest examples of 14th century painting. Over time, however, his use of lead paint has led to the darkening of several sections of these works.

          St. Martin leaves the life of chivalry and renounces the army (fresco by Simone Martini) in the San Martino Chapel.
          The other chapel on the left is dedicated to St. Peter of Alcantara.

          The chapels on the right are dedicated to Saints:

          ~ Louis of Toulouse and Stephen I of Hungary, with frescoes by Dono Doni (1575) and stained glass, attributed to Simone Martini.

          ~ Anthony of Padua, with frescoes by Cesare Sermei (1610,)
          ~ Mary Magdalene. This chapel, built by Teobaldo Pontano ( the Bishop of Assisi from 1296 to 1329), contains some of the best works of the workshop of Giotto and maybe by the Master himself (about 1320). (It was wrongly attributed by Vasari to Puccio Capanna.) 
          On the lateral walls are scenes from the Life of Mary Magdalene (above the portrait of Teobaldo Pontano), while in the vault there are roundels with busts of Christ, the Virgin, Mary Magdalene and Lazarus.

          The nave ends in a richly decorated semicircular apse, preceded with a transept with barrel vaulting. The frescoes in the right transept depict the childhood of Christ, partly by Giotto and his workshop and the Nativity by the anonymous Maestro di San Nicola. The lowest level shows three frescoes representing St. Francis posthumously intervening in favour of two children. These frescoes by Giotto were revolutionary in their time, showing real people with emotions, set in a realistic landscape.

          Maestà with St. Francis, by Cimabue.
          On the transept wall Cimabue painted an image of Our Lady enthroned and Saint Francis (1280). This is probably the nearest likeness existing, showing the actual appearance of St. Francis. This static painting in Gothic style is in stark contrast with the lively frescoes of Giotto.

          This Chapel of Saint Nicholas of Bari, at the northern end of the transept, was commissioned by the papal legate Cardinal Napoleone Orsini and it contains the tomb of the cardinal’s brother, Giovanni Orsini, who died between 1292 and 1294 . The funerary monument is set in a niche above the altar, with the recumbent effigy of a young man placed inside a mortuary chamber and flanked by two angels. The reliefs were carved by an Umbrian sculptor, probably of local origin. Between the tomb and the stained glass window appears a frescoed triptych attributed to Giotto's school, representing the Madonna and Child with Saint Francis and Nicholas . 

          The cycle decorating the walls of the chapel, completed by 1307, comprises twelve scenes painted on the ceiling and on the walls illustrating the life and miracles of St Nicholas A scene of the chapel’s dedication is painted above the arch of the entrance on the southern wall: the Redeemer receives the homage of Giovanni Orsini, presented by St. Nicholas, and of Napoleone Orsini, presented by Saint Francis. The stained glass windows show Cardinal Napoleone presented to Christ in the summit and his brother presented to Saint Nicholas in the zone below. At the southern end of the transept cardinal Orsini commissioned another chapel, dedicated to St John the Baptist, which was probably originally built for the tomb of Napoleone Orsini himself, but the cardinal was never buried there and the tomb remained empty . The parallel architectural arrangement of both Orsini chapels suggests that they were conceived together. However, the decorations of the chapel dedicated to Saint John the Baptist were never finished . Pietro Lorenzetti ( or his workshop) executed a frescoed triptych with a Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Francis.

          14th century Madonna dei Tramonti by Pietro Lorenzetti on canvas.
          The left transept was decorated by the Sienese painter Pietro Lorenzetti and his workshop between 1315 and 1330 (attributed by Vasari Pietro Lorenzetti and also (wrongly) to Giotto and Puccio Capanna) . This cycle of tempera frescoes are his masterworks. They depict six scenes from the Passion of Christ. The fresco of Deposition of the Cross is especially emotional. There were about 330 work-stages needed to complete this cycle. 

          Beneath the monumental "Crucifixion" scene, Pietro Lorenzetti has executed a fresco of Madonna and Child, accompanied by Saints John the Evangelist and Saint Francis (the so-called Madonna dei Tramonti). The fresco is accompanied by a frescoed niche containing the liturgical implements and a fictive bench. The juxtaposition of the Childhood and the Passion frescoes emphasizes the parallel between the passion of Christ and the compassion of St. Francis.

          Papal altar with frescoes
          The papal altar in the apse was made out of one block of stone from Como in 1230. Around the altar are a series of ornamented Gothic arches, supported by columns in different styles. The fine Gothic walnut choir stalls were completed in 1471 by Apollonio Petrocchi da Ripatransone, with the help of Tommaso di Antonio Fiorentino and Andrea da Montefalco.

          Once featuring frescoes depicting an allegory of the Crucifixion by Stefano Fiorentino (destroyed in 1622), the walls of the apse are now covered with a "Last Judgment" by Cesare Sermei di Orvieto (1609–1668).

          The paintings in the lunettes of the vaults (1315–20) depict the Triumph of St Francis and three allegories of Obedience, Poverty and Chastity by the so-called Maestro delle Vele (Master of the Assisi vaults), a pupil of Giotto (about 1330). The stained glass windows in this lower basilica are attributed to Giovanni di Bonino and his workshop.


          Tomb of St. Francis in the crypt
          Halfway down the nave one can descend into the crypt via a double stairway. This burial place of St. Francis was found in 1818. His remains had been hidden by Brother Elias to prevent the spread of his relics in medieval Europe. By order of Pope Pius IX a crypt was built under the lower basilica. It was designed by Pasquale Belli with precious marble in neo-classical style. But it was redesigned in bare stone in neo-Romanesque style by Ugo Tarchi between 1925 and 1932.

          The ancient stone coffin with iron ties is enshrined in an open space above the altar. In 1934 his most faithful brothers were entombed in the corners of the wall around the altar: brother Rufino, brother Angelo, brother Masseo and brother Leone.

          At the entrance of the crypt, an urn with the remains of Jacopa dei Settesoli was added to the crypt. This woman of Roman nobility was the most faithful friend and benefactress of St. Francis. She was at his side in the Porziuncola at the hour of his death.

          Friary of St. Francis

          Courtyard of the friary
          Next to the basilica stands the friary Sacro Convento with its imposing walls with 53 Romanesque arches and powerful buttresses supporting the whole complex. It towers over the valley below, giving the impression of a fortress. It was built with pink and white stone from Mount Subasio. 

          It was already inhabited by the friars in 1230. But construction took a long time, with as result different styles intermingling : Romanesque with Gothic style. A major part was built under the reign of Pope Sixtus IV, a Franciscan, between 1474 and 1476.

          The friary now houses a vast library (with medieval codices and incunables), a museum with works of art donated by pilgrims through the centuries and also the 57 works of art (mainly of Florentine and Sienese schools) of the Perkins collection.

          The belfry, in Romanesque style, was finished in 1239.


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