GOZZOLI, Benozzo
(b. ca. 1420, Firenze, d. 1497, Pistoia)

Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 2, north wall)

Fresco, 270 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

The second picture shows St Francis Giving away his Clothes, Vision of the Church Militant and Triumphant, two events from the saint's youth. What are conspicuous here are the weightings in the construction of the pictorial space. St Francis Giving away his Clothes seems to be pushed to the edge, clamped in between the frame on the left and the central building where the Vision is taking place. The well-dressed supplicant who is not, in contrast with tradition, depicted as a beggar is untypical. There can only have been one reason for taking this unusual approach to the theme: St Francis was not only merciful to the poorest members of society.

The narration of the Vision encompasses two spatially transposed areas of the painting. Due to the repeated use of the vine scroll pattern, the building in the foreground can be recognized as St Francis' parental home. Francis is lying within, asleep on a bed. As he dreams, Christ appears to him in a crown of clouds. He gazes down on the sleeping man and points to the right at a building decorated with numerous coats of arms and flags bearing the Cross. This is, as the inscription below the picture confirms, the castle which Christ shows the young St Francis in a vision: QUAL(ITER) B. F. DEDIT VESTIMENTUM SUU(M) CUIDA(M) PAU(PER)I MILITI NOCTE VERO SEQUE(N)TI OSTE(N)DIT SIBI XPS MAGNU(M) PALATIU(M) ARMIS MILITARIBUS CUM CRUCIBUS INSIGNITIUM "How St Francis gave his clothes to a poor soldier and Christ, during the following night, showed him a large castle decorated with coats of arms and crosses."

This scene is, in terms of form and colour, placed in relationship to St Francis Giving away his Clothes, for the rock formation that towers up behind the saint also appears in the background of the castle and presumably continues behind his parents' house. That makes the pictorial space appear considerably broader. In addition, the colours of St Francis' horse, his red garment and green cloak are related to the beflagged castle. The interpretation of this connection suggests itself: "Caritas" the saint's active brotherly love, is one of the three theological virtues and a "pillar" in the castle as a symbol of the heavenly Jerusalem.