October 3 marks the anniversary of the death of St. Francis of Assisi in 1226. Images of St. Francis exploded in popularity soon after his canonization only two years later, and many Italian artists have represented his funeral, especially in narrative picture cycles representing the saint’s life. Surrounded by his brother friars and other devotees, Francis receives the honors of a splendid Italian funeral in spite of his vow of poverty. A wealthy gentleman touches the wound in Francis’ side to verify Francis’ most important miracle, echoing the moment when St. Thomas insisted that he would only believe in Jesus’ resurrection when he could place his hand in the wounds himself. Francis was regularly compared to Jesus, and his receipt of the stigmata was seen as a holy sign of his compassion for and devotion to Christ.
Giotto, The Death of St. Francis, 1325, fresco, Bardi Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence, Italy
Domenico Ghirlandaio, The Death of St. Francis, 1482-5, fresco, Sassetti Chapel, Santa Trinita, Florence, Italy