BASILICA OF SANTA CHIARA, Interior

Audio File length: 2.25
English / USA Language: English / USA

Like most Franciscan churches, designed to contain a large number of worshippers, Santa Chiara has a simple interior, tall and narrow, with a single nave, so that the friars’ words could be heard more easily by the faithful.

If you go to the Chapel of San Giorgio, you can see the image of “Christ Crucified” that spoke to Saint Francis in the little church of San Damiano. The Saint was deep in prayer when he heard a voice saying “Francis, can’t you see my house is falling into ruins? Go and repair it”. Initially, Francis believed he was referring to the very old church of Porziuncola, which he immediately began repairing. Later, however, he understood that the message was much more profound, and was in fact an invitation to renew the real home of Jesus, the Church, and Francis thus proposed a return to the true spiritual values of the Church, compromised at the time by political struggles.

Take a look at the figure of Christ, crucified yet upright, alive and with his eyes open, signifying that he has defeated death. On the right of Christ, you can see Mary and Saint John: like all the other characters surrounding the cross, they do not seem sad, and are almost smiling, because they are taking part in what for Christians is the most important event in the history of mankind.

Hanging above the altar is another huge, magnificent “Christ Crucified”. This time, however, Christ is dead, with his body dramatically bent. It was painted in the 13th century, two centuries after the “San Damiano Cross”, when painters began focusing on the human dimension of death and suffering. It is the work of an unknown artist known as Maestro di Santa Chiara.

Around the altar is an elegant loggia, composed of twelve columns, like the apostles, gathered around the celebration of the Eucharist.

Above it, you can see the splendid frescoes of Maestro di Santa Chiara, and on the walls there are other fragments of paintings: the church may once have been marvelously decorated throughout, like the Basilica of San Francesco, and as often happens, time and the hand of Man have erased them.

 

Let me leave you with an interesting fact: if you look at the San Damiano Cross, you can see a tiny face next to the face of the man in the white head covering. Some believe it is the artist of the work, painted after the year 1000.

 

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