Fresco cycle in Montefalco (1450-52)
by Benozzo GOZZOLI

The rib-vaulted, pentagonal apsidal chapel (choir) of the Franciscan monastery church in Montefalco, built between 1336 and 1340, was decorated in 1450-52 by Benozzo Gozzoli with a cycle of frescoes depicting the most important stages and deeds from the life of St Francis, the founder of the order.

The selection of scenes in Montefalco differs from the traditional pattern. Benozzo only depicted scenes from the saint's life from his birth to his death, and omitted the posthumous miracles. He also did not keep to the chronological order of events, instead creating a new thematic order of the saint's life. The lowest row - with the exception of the Meeting of St Francis and St Dominic - shows scenes from his youth. In the second row his deeds are depicted, and in the third row the proofs of divine mercy. Benozzo places the emphasis in his life of St Francis on the proofs of divine mercy and the similarities and parallels between his life and Christ's. At the same time, he places the scenes in a contemporary architecture and landscape, in order to give his contemporaries a closer understanding of St Francis.

The cycle of St Francis in Montefalco contains a total of 19 episodes from the life and work of the saint, arranged in a total of 12 pictures and a lost stained glass window. The episodes are the following:

Scene 1
Episodes: (1) Birth of St Francis, (2) Prophecy of the Birth by a Pilgrim, (3) Homage of the Simple Man,
Scene 2
Episodes: (4) St Francis Giving away his Clothes, (5) Vision of the Church Militant and Triumphant,
Scene 3
Episodes: (6) Renunciation of Worldly Goods, (7) The Bishop of Assisi Dresses St Francis,
Scene 4
Episodes: (8) Vison of St Dominic, (9) Meeting of St Francis and St Dominic,
Scene 5
Episodes: (10) Dream of Innocent III, (11) The Confirmation of the Rule,
Scene 6
Episode: (12) The Expulsion of the Devils from Arezzo,
Scene 7
Episodes: (13) Preaching to the Birds, (14) Blessing Montefalco,
Scene 8
Episode: (15) Death of the Knight of Celano,
Scene 9
Episode: (16) Establishment of the Manger at Greccio,
Scene 10
Episode: (17) Trial by Fire before the Sultan,
Scene 11
Episode: (18) Stigmatisation of St Francis,
Scene 12
Episode: (19) Death of St Francis

The lost stained glass window depicted the Vision of San Damiano.

In the umbrella vault, St Francis is enthroned in glory with angels on either side. In the five spandrels he is surrounded by the most important saints of the Franciscan order.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 33 minutes):
Michael Haydn: St Francis Mass


Preview Picture Data File Info Comment
View of the main apsidal chapel
1450-52
Fresco
San Francesco, Montefalco

867*1200
True Color
180 Kb



Scheme of the fresco cycle
1450-52
-
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

1200*1237
True Color
137 Kb



Scenes from the Life of St Francis (north wall)
1452
Fresco
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

1000*1088
True Color
239 Kb



Scenes from the Life of St Francis (south wall)
1452
Fresco
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

1000*1089
True Color
235 Kb



Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 1, north wall)
1452
Fresco, 304 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

1015*804
True Color
156 Kb



Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 2, north wall)
1452
Fresco, 270 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

1196*802
True Color
183 Kb



Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 3, south wall)
1452
Fresco, 270 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

1039*801
True Color
174 Kb



Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 4, south wall)
1452
Fresco, 304 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

1144*800
True Color
182 Kb



Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 5, north wall)
1452
Fresco, 304 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

951*770
True Color
185 Kb



Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 6, north wall)
1452
Fresco, 270 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

1019*800
True Color
187 Kb



Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 7, south wall)
1452
Fresco, 270 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

1067*850
True Color
192 Kb



Scenes from the Life of St Francis (detail of scene 7, south wall)
1452
Fresco
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

1282*650
True Color
179 Kb



Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 8, south wall)
1452
Fresco, 304 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

1050*884
True Color
194 Kb



Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 9, north wall)
1452
Fresco, 304 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

930*953
True Color
198 Kb



Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 10, north wall)
1452
Fresco, 270 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

900*976
True Color
191 Kb



Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 11, south wall)
1452
Fresco, 270 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

900*930
True Color
193 Kb



Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 12, south wall)
1452
Fresco, 270 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

840*903
True Color
175 Kb



St Francis in Glory and Saints
1452
Vault fresco
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

1020*800
True Color
190 Kb




Summary of paintings by Benozzo Gozzoli
Various paintings
up to 14501460-71after 1471
Narrative fresco cycles
St Francis
(Montefalco)
Procession of the Magi
(Florence)
St Augustine
(S. Gimignano)