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

Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 5, north wall)

Fresco, 304 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

The sequence of pictures continues on the left north wall in the second row, meaning that the next picture is above the Birth of St Francis. It depicts the Dream of Innocent III and the Confirmation of the Rule by Pope Honorius III, the successor of Innocent III. The depiction of chronologically separate events and two popes in one picture is designed to do justice to the actual historical facts, which were frequently confused by painters who depicted the oral confirmation of the rule by Innocent III as having been a written approval.

A fluted pillar in the centre of the picture divides it into two halves. This method of structuring the surface of the picture has already been seen in the first fresco. The pope's vision shows a monk hurrying up on the left in order to support the Lateran basilica that is about to collapse. In front of the church a lavish meadow covered with numerous flowers and grasses is spread out. In the fine arts, the legends of St Dominic and St Francis were from time to time confused. Sometimes it is Dominic who has the crucial role of supporting the collapsing Lateran basilica. This depiction appears, for example, in two predella panels by Fra Angelico: in the altar showing the Sacra Conversazione, 1435/36, now in the Museo Diocesano in Cortona, and in the Coronation of Mary, now in the Louvre in Paris.

In addition, Benozzo's method of depiction here gives us an insight into the modernity of his visual language. When compared to the fresco by Giotto at Assisi, it is noticeable that the latter chose a stronger angle of inclination to express the gap between dream and reality. Benozzo made use of a different solution. He placed the dreaming pope in the rear and St Francis in the front picture plane, and in so doing was making use of a compositional principle that was popular during the Renaissance. The right half of the picture shows the confirmation of the rule taking place inside a palace. The pope has raised his right hand in blessing and in his left is holding an open scroll of parchment which St Francis has grasped at the lower edge. On the scroll the following words can be read: REGULA ET VITA MINORUM FRATRUM H(A)EC E(ST): D(OMI)NI NOSTRI IHESU XRI SANCTUM EVA(N)G(E)L(IUM) (OBSERVARE) - "It is the rule and the life of the Minorites to observe the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord."