Italy Basilica di San Francesco

20 images 1 contributors Shoot with care

Sue Wolfe

Shoot with care
This is an active church. Dress appropriately and be respectful of people praying.

About this spot
West of the Piazza Maggiore is the Basilica di San Francesco dedicated to Saint Francis of Assissi. It was originally built outside the city wall and faces the Porta Nova. There is some uncertainty of the architect, but it is believed the entire complex was built by the Franciscan community and completed in 1263. Between 1397 and 1402 a new bell tower was built and several private chapels. All the side chapels were demolished during the 19th century restorations except the Chapel of San Bernardino.

After the arrival of the French, the church was sacked by Napoleonic troops and used as a barracks and warehouse. Due to structural deterioration, the church was substantially restored in 1886-1906. But that was not the last renovation. During WWII, aerial bombings caused serious damage to the façade, vaults, and cloister.

The church is French Gothic in design with flying buttresses. It has three naves and is known for its ornate marble altarpiece which features scenes from the life of St. Francis. The altar was created by Venetian brothers, Pier Paolo and Jacobello dale Masegne (1388-1393). There are nine side chapels. Buried in the church is Pope Alessandro V. He reigned in opposition to the Roman Pope Gregory XII and the Avignon antipope Benedict XIII. The Library of San Francesco contains 39,000 books and brochures as well as the Musical Archive.

On the grounds of the church are the three raised Tombs of the Glossatori (legal annotators) dating back to the 13th century. Buried in the tombs are Odofredo Denari, Francesco d’Accursio, and Rolandino dei Romanzi. Before the university had a permanent location, lectures in the arts and medicine were held in monastic churches, including San Francesco. The adjacent monastery has a cloister which is often used for a flea market.

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