Giotto and his frescoes on the life of San Francesco d'Assisi, in the basilica of S. Croce in Florence
The Basilica of Santa Croce was built on the site of the original Franciscan church in Florence at the end of 1300. The Bardi Chapel was commissioned by two of the most prominent families of Florence at the time, the owners of a merchant banking company among the largest of Europe, in close relationship with the papacy, the king of Naples and of England. Giotto painted the stories of Saint Francis between 1320 and 1326.
The images are the most refined of all the work of Giotto, their anatomical structure is at the peak of harmony with exceptionally plastic forms.
The characters express themselves through gestures full of humanity, never casual, underlined by the use of color by which Giotto is able to translate, with excellent sensitivity, the very essence of human life.
St. Francis renounces clothes before the Bishop Guido and his father Bernardone
The characters are disposed in two opposing groups: one of the half-naked Francis in prayer, covered and protected by the bishop, followed by other religious figures; the other, of his father Bernardone, outraged, who is held back by a man. At each end, two rascals throw stones to the "fool" and are taken back by their mothers who pull them by the hair and make them cry.
In the background, above a high a rusticated wall there is a classical proto-Renaissance palace. The corner of the building falls in correspondence of Francis, an ideal cornerstone of the new order and of the reformed Church.
Apparition of St. Francis to St. Anthony in the Chapter of Arles
Saint Francis appears, miraculously, with raised arms. Solemn and evocative more than ever, the use of the architecture that frames the view through the arched doorway that, with the arches of the side windows, creates a sort of triptych, clear and rational, separated by columns of the room, which also inspired the artists of the early Renaissance.
Funeral of St. Francis with the incredulous Jerome looking for the stigmata.
In Funeral of St. Francis, three scenes are merged in one: the mourning over dead Saint the verification of the stigmata by the physician Girolamo and ascension of Francis, whose soul is taken to heaven by a group of angels. The banner held by the three young clerics on the right drives the viewer's eye straight to the representation of the Ascension, at the center top of the picture.
The approval of the Franciscan rule:
Under the gaze of St. Peter (carved medallion in the classical pediment ) representing the Vatican, St. Francis and his fellow friars receive from Pope Innocent III, the approval of the Franciscan Rule.
Trial by fire before the Sultan:
At the center, represented frontally, the Sultan enthroned. Behind a high wall decorated with tapestries, that with the foreshortened walls at the sides describes a quadrangular room open to the sky. On the right, St. Francis, close to a companion, is ready to undergo the trial by fire to prove the truth of the Christian faith. On the opposite side, the Muslim scholars turn away in fear. Each character has different gesture and posture marking the rhythm of the composition.
Visions of Brother Augustine and the Bishop Guido of Assisi
The scene of the Visions of Saint Francis is the most damaged. It shows two rooms where, according to the Legenda Maior by Bonaventura da Bagnoregio, brother Augustine and the Bishop of Assisi, both in the Gargano (Apulia), had miraculous visions of Francis just died. The monk, on the left, gets up from his bed and full of surprise, and may be praying (his figure is almost completely lost), to the amazement of the friars; the Bishop, on the right, lies in his bed: before him, probably, there was the image of the Saint.
St. Francis receiving the stigmata:
The arid landscape, with crevasses in the rock, represents the mountain of La Verna. High up on the mountain peaks, there is a falcon. From the winged crucifix in the upper right corner, golden rays from the wounds of Christ strike St. Francis in the stigmata creating wonderful light effects.
On the back wall there are painted niches with saints in full picture, among which is recognizable a sweet Santa Chiara with tilted head and the lily symbol of purity, innocence and virginity.