Saint Francis returns to Assisi before his death

This chapel was built sometime between 1640 and 1693, when the Fabbriceria's receipt books begin to record payments to Stefano Maria Legnani (1661 - 1713), who was called il Legnanino, for the frescoes inside it. The painted decorations were still incomplete when Bishop Giovanni Battista Visconti visited from Novara in 1698 but seem to have been finished by 1700. The multitude of figures inside was modeled by Dionigi Bussola (1615 - 1687) and his workshop, likely in the 1660s, when the majority of Bussola's activity at Orta took place. Saint Francis is shown on his way back to Assisi after receiving the Stigmata at La Verna. Along the way he was met by many people who wanted to touch his wounds or his habit in hopes of receiving a miracle. The artists active in this chapel referenced a number of important parallels between Francis and Jesus in this chapel to emphasize the saint's holiness. A fresco behind the scene shows the woman who was healed by touching Jesus' cloak, which is recorded in each of the three Synoptic Gospels. Francis also rides into the city on a donkey, just as Jesus entered Jerusalem before the Crucifixion. / 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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