Anna McNay

Review of Saint Francis of Assisi at the National Gallery, London


Saint Francis of Assisi

National Gallery, London
6 May – 30 July 2023

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone was born in Assisi in 1181 or 1182, more than a millennium after Jesus, the apostles and the first saints. His father, a wealthy cloth merchant who had much business in France, accordingly nicknamed him “Francis”. Adopting this name, Francis went on not only to become Saint Francis (he was canonised in 1228, two years after his death) and founder of the Franciscan order, but also to be heralded as an alter Christus (“another Christ”), after the five wounds of the stigmata were imprinted on his body in 1224. His conversion to Christianity had come about through a series of events, including renouncing his earthly father (after he was scolded by him for giving away his cloak to a poor knight), living as a penitent, and an encounter with a painting of the crucifix, in the ruined church of St Damiano, outside the walls of Assisi, from which Christ is said to have spoken to him, saying: “Francis, rebuild My house; as you see, it is all being destroyed.” As such, Francis’s story might well be said to have begun with a painting.



Read the full review here