The frescoed lunettes, painted by Domenico Manfredi from Camaiore, and decorating the cloister of the ex-monastery of San Francesco at Borgo a Mozzano are an utter delight with their naïve but felt devotion. Each lunette represents an episode in the life of Saint Francis who, like the present Pope his namesake, is a quite revolutionary figure in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.
For example, Saint Francis entered into dialogue with other world religions. Here he is having a chat with the Muslim Sultan of Egypt.
What a conversation it must have been! Again, the example is today for all of us to follow: dialogue is the only way forwards whether it be in politics, religion or day-to-day social relationships. Without it nothing is possible and lack of dialogue can only lead to confrontation and worse…
When I took a look at the cloister yesterday a restorer of the frescoes was busy at work. For over two years now the lunettes are being brought back to their original bright colours and any damage to them is being conservatively repaired.
Here is a lunette before restoration:
And here it is after restoration:
An artistic cataract operation, in fact!
One lunette has revealed a miraculous banquet – miraculous because Francis performed a later version of the gospel loaves and fishes when he found the monastery larder was empty:
I bet the cat in the middle of the refectory floor must have been glad that the fish suddenly multiplied. He certainly looks it!
Francis seems to have had an extraordinary propensity for wide-ranging dialogue. He also, as is well-known, preached to the birds and also had to encounter animals of a very different appearance. Here is a lunette showing Francis in the middle of a horde of diabolical creatures. The caption reads that Francis was faced with these unattractive figures sent by the devil, but with the sign of the cross managed to send them packing. How great it would be for us to be able to do the same with all those tedious people we have to deal with!
However, if you want to get rid of any blue devils there’s no better place to do so than at Ponte a Moriano tomorrow, for from 11 am tomorrow there’s a blues festival happening there. Can’t miss that!
The friars departed in 1983 but if you wish to live in the monastery you’ll have to be of a certain age: the place is now an old folks’ home…