SIMONE MARTINI
(b. 1280/85, Siena, d. 1344, Avignon)

St Elisabeth, St Margaret and Henry of Hungary

1320-25
Fresco, 120 x 228 cm
Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi

The group of saints painted alongside the altar dedicated to St Elizabeth in the north transept of the Basilica is an expression of the political and religious feeling that bound the House of Anjou to Hungary and the Spirituals. Scholars have found plausible historical explanations for their presence and identified them. Proceeding from left to right, after Saints Francis, Louis of Toulouse and Elizabeth of Hungary, we find St Margaret: this figure had always been identified as St Clare, until a recent cleaning revealed a small cross, the symbol of St Margaret. Next to her is a young and very beautiful saint, who is probably Henry, Prince of Hungary (and not Louis IX of France, as had been suggested: how could he be a king without a crown?), the son of St Stephen, shown on the next wall with St Ladislaus and the Madonna and Child.

The presence of all these members of the House of Anjou in the frescoes in Assisi is justified, in other words, by the close connection existing between the Order and the royal family, and it is quite suitable that they be placed here, in the chapel of Cardinal Gentile da Montefiore who was both a Franciscan and a good friend of the Anjou.




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