Mantova, San Francesco
Convent church of the Friar Minors.
St Frances of Assisi is celebrated on 4th October.
Tradition has it that St Frances opened here the first of the numerous Franciscan houses that now dot the town and the whole province. According to the documents, the friars were in this area as early as in 1232, though the church was built in 1304. Since then, also thanks to the protection by the members of the Gonzaga family – who added their main mausoleum here – the church was constantly enriched by important artworks, partly surviving in various museums. Abolished in late 18th century, after being pillaged, the church was used as an arsenal. Almost entirely destroyed by the bombings in the WWII, it was then rebuilt trying to restore, as much as possible, its 14th-century layout. The exterior keeps the original 16th-century porch facing the façade. The Gothic-Lombard façade boasts a spectacular portal, a rose window and two long mullioned windows with one light, with fine brickwork decorations), the belfry (originally surmounted by spire, without merlons), and, beside it, the Cappella di San Ludovico. The interior is characterised by a nave and two aisles, on brickwork columns connected by Gothic arches, with a series of chapels opening along the right nave. Beside the main door, a copy of the memorial stone celebrating the end of works and the name of the architect, Germano; another memorial stone, between the first two side chapels, commemorates the temple’s consecration, which took place in 1459 and to which Pope Pius II participated. The first chapel, dedicated to St Bernardinus, is preceded by an atrium with large remains of a fresco by Stefano da Verona depicting St Frances and the fragment of a Crucifix. Other frescoes are on the wall that bounds the left nave, and include a Last Judgement dating back to the 14th century and a Triumph of the Church, of the second half of the 16th century. Among the chapels, the second one contains large fragments of 14th-century sculptures, presumably part of the graves of Gonzaga family members. The fifth chapel contains a fine St Frances dating back to the 13th century, of Giunta Pisano’s school; the last chapel is the Cappella di San Ludovico di Tolosa, commissioned by the Gonzaga family in 1369 as a family mausoleum. Prodigiously spared by wartime destructions, it keeps valuable coeval frescoes, though full with gaps and partially in need of restoration. The entrance wall boasts scenes of the Life of Jesus; on the front wall are scenes of the Life of St Louis of Toulouse, attributed to Modena-born Serafino de' Serafini. It is possible to identify the arrival of the Saint in Toulouse (above), his bishop’s ordination by Boniface VIII, and his death. The painter imagined that St Louis's death was witnessed by Louis I Gonzaga (the person wearing the white cloak), who was the founder of the Gonzaga dynasty.
Phone: 0376 325455