St. Francis Manuscripts Come to New York

Raffaellino del Garbo, The Madonna And Child With The Infant Saint John The Baptist, Beyond Them A Landscape With Saints Jerome And Francis (est. £300,000–500,000) sold for £662,500 ($1,135,459).
Photo: Sotheby’s

Medieval manuscripts from the Sacred Convent of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, will cross the Atlantic for a New York exhibition, leaving the motherland for the first time in 700 years, reports the New York Times.

After careful restorations carried out in a laboratory at Praglia Abbey, a Northern Italian monastery near Padua, 13 of the convent’s 19 artifacts will make their New World debut at the United Nations headquarters November 17–28. Afterward, the show “Friar Francis: Traces, Words, and Images,” will be on view at Brooklyn Borough Hall through mid-January.

The five-month restoration process has been painstaking. A team composed of three monks and three restoration experts have cleaned each page has been individually with a delicate paintbrush, and have repaired parchment tears with Japanese vegetable fiber or bovine membrane. Where the ink had faded, the restorers used a starch gel.

Historians believe that St. Francis of Assisi, the saint of the poor who gave up his wealth to serve the people and namesake of Pope Francis, dictated his writings to scribes. Though the manuscripts that proclaim his theological teachings and document his life are not by the saint’s hand, there is every reason to believe he touched like the papal announcements sent to the religious community in the 1220s, which are also in the show.

“St. Francis was a man, a saint, of the people, who truly stood with those who are the least every day,” said the US ambassador to the Vatican, Ken Hackett, in a news conference in Rome last week. He added, “This exhibition’s arrival in New York will give Americans the chance to know the history and the spirituality of St. Francis, and the chance to be inspired.”

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