By Anne Leader
17 September is the Feast Day of the Stigmatization of St. Francis. The saint himself is celebrated on October 4. Hagiography recounts how Francis sought retreat in the wilderness at La Verna in Tuscany, keeping a forty-day fast. On or about the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (14 September), Francis was marked with the stigmata, the five wounds of Christ, as proof of his deep devotion to and compassion for Christ. According to St. Bonaventure, Francis had a vision of the Crucified Jesus as a seraph with six wings. This miracle was one of the most important to certify Francis’ sanctity, and he was canonized remarkably soon after his death on 3 October 1226. With the declaration of his sainthood on 16 July 1228 by Pope Gregory IX, images of the saint and illustrations of his biography, especially the scene of the Stigmatization, became increasingly popular throughout Italy, appearing in manuscripts, panel paintings, and fresco cycles.
Attributed to Rinaldo da Siena, Initial G: The Stigmatization of Saint Francis, about 1275, Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment, 7 1/8 x 5 1/16 in. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, MS. 71, verso.
Master of St. Francis Cycle, Stigmatization of St. Francis. ca. 1300, fresco. Assisi: Basilica of San Francesco, Upper Church.
Giotto, Stigmatization of St. Francis. 1300. Panel. Paris: Musée du Louvre.
Giotto, Scenes from the Life of Saint Francis: 1. Stigmatization of Saint Francis, 1325, Fresco, Bardi Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence