(b. ca. 1240, Firenze, d. ca. 1302, Firenze)

View of the transept and apse from the east

Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi

Most of the frescoes in the transept of the upper church of San Francesco, as well as in the apse, were executed all at once by Cimabue and his workshop. Cimabue, who came from Florence, is the first of the mural painters active in Assisi who can be identified by name. The subject matter of the extensive pictorial program that was executed under Cimabue's direction in the transept and the apse is based for the most part on the dedications of the altars in the western section of the church. A thirteenth-century inscription indicates that the altar in the south transept was dedicated to the archangel Michael; the high altar, to the birth of the Virgin; and the altar in the north transept, to the apostles or to Peter and Paul. Accordingly, the apse had scenes from the life of the Virgin, culminating in the Assumption; the south transept had motifs from the Apocalypse and a large Crucifixion on the east wall; the north transept arm had scenes from the lives of the apostles and another large Crucifixion; and the crossing vault had the evangelists.

The scenes from the life of the Virgin in the apse of the Upper Church represent the first large program dedicated to Mary in the history of Italian painting. The paintings of the upper registers are almost entirely destroyed. The four large fields of the basamento to the left and right of the papal throne are dedicated to the death and glorification of the Virgin. The Assembly of the Apostles by the Virgin's Deathbed is followed by the Death of the Virgin and the Assumption. The final painting, shown here, represents the Virgin as intercessor, sitting on the heavenly throne alongside Christ. They are flanked by angels, patriarchs, prophets, saints, and Franciscans. To the left of the throne St Francis recommends brothers of his Order to the Virgin.