The St. Francis Museum Church was built between 1335 and 1338 by the Friars Minor and it represents the third Franciscan settlement in the area of Montefalco, but the first within the urban walls. The church was officiated by the Friars until 1863, when it came under the municipal property, it has been the seat of the civic museum since 1895.
The Church has a rectangular plant and it is composed by a central nave ending in a pentagonal apse, flanked by two rectangular chapels. The aisle was obtained in the 17th century with the demolition of the side walls of two 14th century chapels.
The pictorial surface was covered with frescoes between the 14th and the 16th century by famous artists such as Benozzo Gozzoli and Pietro Vannucci also known as the Perugino.
The cycle of frescoes of the apse
A pentagonal plan with ribbed vaults based on completely decorated corbels, the apse is preceded by a gilded and painted carved wooden pergola, commissioned by Niccolò Zuccarini.
The choir, made up of 16 wooden stalls, was built around the end of 19th century. The apse was completely frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli with The Scenes from the life of St. Francis, Saints and historical figures of the Franciscan Order in 1452. These frescoes represent the first extraordinary witness of the achievement of the “status” of independent Master by Gozzoli, who had previously collaborated with Beato Angelico.
Nowadays this cycle of frescoes, which survived the earthquake of 1997, appears legible thanks to a great restoration work completed in 2000.
These frescoes were executed on commission of the friar Jacopo Mactioli da Montefalco, the prior of the convent.
The twenty episodes from the Saint’s life are narrated in twelve scenes arranged on three registers, the narration proceeds from left to right, starting from below. The vaults of the apse are decorated with vegetal elements, figures of Franciscan Saints and the Glory of St. Francis.
In one of the episodes Gozzoli illustrates St. Francis while he was blessing the town of Montefalco: the image of the countryside in the background stresses the importance of the wine cultivation in the town. In the apse of the church, the painter might have referred to the Sagrantino wine by painting a bottle of red wine on the table of the knight from Celano.
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