March 28, 2016 – On the trail of St. Francis and Piero della Francesca

So far we have been very fortunate with the weather. We had a little rain on the drive from the airport to Viterbo and that’s it. Today is payback day. Luckily we are prepared for rain and it does not keep us from pursuing our agenda.

We are now in St. Francis and Piero della Francesca (PDF) territory. Our first stop today is at the LaVerna Sanctuary where St. Francis received his stigmata. It is a long and twisty drive up to the mountaintop through the rain and fog. And golly, is it cold when we get out of the car!

John and I came here years ago and we were almost the only people visiting. It was lovely and serene. This Monday after Easter is anything but. There are hordes of people and busloads of kids turning this serene place into a St. Francis World theme park.

The placard as you reach the sanctuary - be quiet and respectful, no dogs or cell phones
The placard as you reach the sanctuary – Hey, there are people praying here! Be quiet and respectful and don’t talk on your cell phones. For bus loads of young people a placard instead of a text alert does not resonate.

Needless to say the visit here is not the serene encounter we are hoping for. We visit the sanctuary of the stigmata where there is a della Robbia ceramic sculpture.

della Robbia ceramic sculpture where St. Francis received the stigmata
della Robbia ceramic sculpture where St. Francis received the stigmata

After this we venture outside where one can go to the Sasso Spicco, an overhanging rock where legend has it that St. Francis sought refuge from the devil.

Sasso Spicco
Sasso Spicco

I do not join Sarah and John down the slippery stairs.  I figure there is no reason to tempt fate (or the devil!) Instead I remain in the courtyard where I can take some misty pictures.

Misty picture from the parapet
Misty picture from the parapet

 

Basilica of San Francesco
Basilica of San Francesco

After our visit to LaVerna we head down the mountain to Sansepulcro, home of PDF. It is pouring rain! We walk around a bit through the bedraggled market and find a place for some sandwiches for lunch.

Wet Sansepulcro street with market in the background
Wet Sansepulcro street with market in the background

Our next tour stop is the Cathedral of San Giovanni Evangellista. Here we see a fine Perugino ariot with expressionless faces and we also enjoy a 14th century altarpiece.

Main aisle of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist
Main aisle of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist
John viewing Perugino's Resurrection
John viewing Perugino’s Resurrection
Sarah in front of a 14th century altarpiece
Sarah in front of a 14th century altarpiece

Our last stop is at the Civic Museum. A few of their PDF pieces have been loaned out to the exhibition we saw in Forli. It seems that Piero della Francesca is big business around here attracting tourists. We see what is left.

We see the side panels to the Madonna Miseriecordia triptych - the original center panel of the Madonna is in Forli
We see the side panels to the Madonna Misericordia triptych – the original center panel of the Madonna is in Forli

We also see a PDF fresco that is being restored.

This PDF fresco of the Resurrection is currently being restored. The fresco has become the symbol of Sanspolrco or "holy sepulchre."
This PDF fresco of the Resurrection is currently being restored. The fresco has become the symbol of Sanspolrco or “holy sepulchre.”

There are also some interesting fresco fragments from a deconsecrated 14th century church.

A rendition of the Trinity
A rendition of the Trinity

 

Poor St. Catherine being martyred on a wheel
Poor St. Catherine being martyred on a wheel

Tonight’s dinner consists of stopping into a beer pub and having some crostini.

Tuscan crostini (mmm... chicken livers!)
Tuscan crostini (mmm… chicken livers!)

Beer drinkers!

 

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