Sunday, August 01, 2004

July 30, Friday

Mostly, we travelled today, moving out of our apartment once and for all in the morning and getting into a hotel in Assissi in the evening.

As soon as I saw Assissi and began to feel the place I wanted to go to the hermitage of the "Carceri," but I waited until the morning because I thought Colleen would want to see it as well. Instead I went to see the upper and lower churches of St. Francis, and his burial vault, which is actually a more recent construction excavated around the original resting place of his remains.

The frescoes in the upper church have been badly damaged, I suppose from the earthquake. Many of them are very beautiful, mainly for color and for their wonderful narrative compositions. They don't seem like Giotto's work to me, though, in particular because the faces don't quite have the life, delicacy and expressiveness of Giotto's figures in other places. The figures are also somewhat less mobile and graceful, less perfectly placed in space.

The lower church was generally more impressive to me. I don't know who did most of the works I admired, but I think some of them may have been by Cimabue. There is a famous fresco of the Virgin surrounded by angels with St Francis standing alone off to the right. This may be my favorite fresco painting. I tried to draw just one of the angel's faces and found it extremely difficult to capture. These figures have a sanctity that captivates me. There is a seriousness, a depth to their expressions that I can look at for hours and hours.

After this I went into the lowest church where St. Francis' remains are kept.

This was a powerful place, and I felt moved being there. I hope that I never forget how to feel like that.

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