Francis Sends his Disciples to Preach

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Date
Authors
Workshop of Cristoforo Prestinari and Dionigi Bussola
Keyword
St. Francis , Disciples , Followers , Brothers , Franciscan Order , Miracle
Abstract
This chapel illustrates the miracles performed by the first Franciscans after their leader sent them out from Assisi to preach and minister to the poor. The frescoes were finished in June of 1619. They were painted by Giovanni Battista della Rovere (1561 - c. 1633) and his brother Giovanni Mauro della Rovere (1575 - 1640), who were called I Fiammenghini because of the style of their work. The sculptures are split into two groups. In the apse at the back of the chapel, the figures by Cristoforo Prestinari (1573 - 1623) show Francis blessing his disciples before they set out on their mission. This group was made between 1617 and 1618. In the foreground, sculptures by Dionigi Bussola (1615 - 1687) depict the friars healing the lame, restoring sight to the blind, casting out evil spirits, and preaching. These works (c. 1662) are distinguished from Prestinari's by their more exuberant gestures and less idealized facial features. The statues in the back of the chapel are raised on a small step inside a niche, which marks the original position of the wooden grate separating visitors from the scene. Symmetrical losses in the frescoes on either side of the archway also attest to the location of this first barrier. It seems that the grate was moved forward to accommodate the new group of sculptures by Dionigi Bussola, probably in the 1660s or shortly thereafter. Neither of the handwritten guidebooks published by Longo describe Bussola's figures, but the post-1686 text includes an addendum in a new hand that records Bussola's addition. The chapel itself was built between 1614 - 1615. / Orta is the second oldest Sacro Monte. Construction began on the chapels there in 1591, just over a hundred years after the first Sacro Monte site was established at nearby Varallo. A community of Capuchin friars lived on the mountain, oversaw construction, and guided visitors on their pilgrimages once the chapels were finished. One of the brothers, Cleto da Castelletto Ticino (1556 - 1619) designed a series of thirty-six mysteries for the site, although only twenty chapels were ever completed. Before joining the Capuchin Order, Cleto had trained as an architect and engineer. After construction began at Orta, he also worked alongside Pellegrino Tibaldi (1527 - 1596), one of Carlo Borromeo's favorite architects. Amico Canobio (1532 - 1592), a Benedictine Abbot and Commissioner of the secular lands within the diocese of Novara, oversaw Cleto's work and was the first major patron of the chapels at Orta. Carlo Bascapè (1550 - 1615) took charge of directing the progress at Orta as soon he was named Bishop of Novara in 1593, the year after Canobio's death.
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