The clothier of Assisi

It is the fifth of the twenty-eight scenes depicting the life of Saint François in the Upper Basilica of Assisi. Attributed to Giotto, these frescoes were probably painted between 1295 and 1299.

One day of 1206, for having seen him using his own money to restore a decrepit church, Pietro di Bernardone pulled his son to the public square. Wanting to rely on the judgment of the bishop of Assisi, he actually provoked the final decision of the Saint to abandon the family home and give up at the same time his property and inheritance rights.

On the left of the scene, Pietro Bernardone, Francois’s father, his face contracted, is restrained by the arm. He closes his fist and raises his dress as if he wants to throw himself on his son, a real “gesture of speech”, the bourgeois unfolding behind him. On the other side, St. François, stripped, turns to his celestial Father, the bishop trying to coveri his nakedness as he can and other religious as well.

The clear split of the scene is in fact the symbol of the irreconcilable positions of the two, a metaphor of the past and the present of François.

Of this episode, one of the only one known in the life of Pietro di Bernardone, Michel Sauquet committed in 2016 a magnificent story, “The clothier of Assisi”, the letter of a father to his son to tell him his anger and his dismay. And his vain attempt to understand. With this question still pending: is it possible that this so luminous Saint never sought to reconcile with his father?

In the epigraph of his work, the author decided to quote Bernanos: “My life is already full of dead. But the deadest of the dead is the little boy that I was, and yet, when the time comes, he will take his place at the head of my life, will gather my poor years until the last, and as a young leader his veterans, rallying the troop in disorder, will enter first in the House of the Father “.

A nice summer reading.


Iconography: Giotto di Bondone, said Giotto,” Saint Francis renouncing the material goods “, 1295-1299, fresco, 230 × 270 cm © Upper Basilica, Assisi, Italy.


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