Saturday, March 4, 2017

Cuernavaca, the open chapel fresco

The venerable Franciscan mission of San Francisco, now serving as the cathedral of Cuernavaca, is noted for its artistic and architectural innovations. In particular, an especially broad range of colonial era murals is on display throughout the church, from the conventional to the highly exotic.
San Francisco Cuernavaca, the open chapel
In this post we focus on a specific, two part mural to be found in the open chapel, the architectural high point of the monastery.
Located above the entry to the chapel from the cloister, the main panel of this panoramic mural portrays St. Francis presenting the Rule of his new Order to Pope Innocent lll in 1209—to our knowledge the most detailed fresco on this subject in Mexico (the only other major mural on this theme is that at San Gabriel Cholula.)
Francis kneels barefoot in the center offering up his Rule to the pope, seated on a throne surrounded by his cardinals on the left.  An inscribed banderole quotes the pope’s approval of the Rule.  
 Eleven tonsured Franciscan friars kneel behind Francis making up an apostolic twelve. 
 
The second key historical scene, that of the conversion of St Francis in a vision, is compressed into a rectangular alfiz above the triangular pediment, framed by the Franciscan knotted cord. 
In another Latin inscription, Christ on the cross urges Francis to rebuild his ruined church of St. Damian, near Assisi :  Francisce vade, et repara domum meam quae, ut cernis, tota destruitur.  (Francis, go and rebuild my house, which has been totally destroyed) 
  
Francis, dressed as a friar and holding his Rule, seems to be edging out of the frame to the left, presumably to pursue his calling, while the luxuriously robed, kneeling figure to the right, to whom Christ's appeal is directed, may depict St. Francis in the moment of his conversion. 
text © 2017 Richard D. Perry
color images by Niccolo Brooker and Benjamin Arredondo

1 comment:

  1. I'm fairly blown away by the details in these murals and your knowledge of the myths and Biblical references they embody.

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