Legend of St Francis

Giotto designed the fresco cycle of the Legend of St Francis, although his authorship is debated by many critics on stylistic grounds. The questions of dating - whether they were painted shortly before or shortly after the first Holy Year of 1300 - are also controversial. However, these frescoes are imbued with the humanity which St Francis himself had brought into the religious life of the 13th century, and which was so potent an influence on the arts.

St Bonaventure described the life of St Francis as an example to the faithful. He divided the saints journey through life into ninety-seven stations, from which twenty-eight scenes were selected for the pictorial narrative. The life story begins with the Homage in the Marketplace at Assisi to St Francis, and ends with the Liberation of the Heretic Peter, a miracle ascribed to St Francis after his death. Giotto's authorship in the case of the last three scenes (Nos. 26-28) are universally denied; these scenes are usually attributed to the St Cecilia Master.

In each of the individual scenes the spatial and plastic, the artistic and psychological qualities are important. These qualities account for the particular, and previously unknown, vividness of this series of pictures.

To view a particular scene

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