The Church of San Francesco

The Church-Museum of San Francesco was built between 1335 and 1338 by the Friars Minor and is the third Franciscan settlement in the Montefalco area, although it is the first within the walls. It was officiated by the friars until 1863 when the church was given to the Municipality of Montefalco and in 1895 it became the seat of the Civic Museum


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The Church of San Francesco

The church has a rectangular floor plan and comprises a central nave ending in a pentagonal apse, with two rectangular chapels on either side. The side aisle was created in the 17th century by demolishing the side walls of individual chapels built from the 14th century onwards. The painted surface was frescoed between the 14th and 16th centuries by famous artists, including Benozzo Gozzoli and Pietro Vannucci, known as Il Perugino.
With a pentagonal layout and a ribbed vault resting on fully-figured corbels, the apse is preceded by a carved, painted and gilded wooden pergola commissioned by Niccolò Zuccarini. Although there is no documentary evidence, the Chancel, which comprises 16 wooden stalls, was built at the end of the 19th century.

The apse was frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli in 1452 and is entirely covered with Stories from the Life of St Francis, other Saints and members of the Franciscan Order. Having previously collaborated with Beato Angelico, these frescoes are the first extraordinary example of Gozzoli's achievement of the "status" of independent master.
Today, this cycle of frescoes, which survived the 1997 earthquake, appears in a state of full legibility, thanks to the masterful restoration work completed in 2000.
The frescoes were commissioned by Fra Jacopo Mactioli da Montefalco, prior of the monastery. The twenty episodes from the Life of the Saint are narrated in twelve scenes arranged in three registers, with the narration moving from left to right, starting from the bottom. The vaults of the apse are decorated with plant elements, figures of Franciscan Saints and the Glory of St Francis. In one of the episodes, Gozzoli depicts St Francis blessing the town of Montefalco: the rural background reflects the importance of the cultivation of vines for the town. Also, in the apse of the church he perhaps alluded to the local wine, Sagrantino, by painting bottles of red wine on the laden table of the Cavalier of Celano.

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