Tuesday, October 04, 2011

St Francis in the Lateran Apse

St Francis in the Lateran apse

On this feast day of the Seraphic Father, St Francis, the Pauper of Assisi, this detail of the saint from the apse of the Lateran Basilica may be apt.

The mosaic is actually a 19th-century copy (albeit a very exact one) of the apse mosaic originally designed and installed sometime before c.1291 by Jacopo Torriti. Torriti's own apse mosaics had in fact replaced the original 5th-century mosaics of the Lateran Archbasilica, although the river scene that runs along the bottom of the mosaic is almost certainly from the original 5th-century design, as is the bust of Christ in the centre of the apse.

The pope kneeling beside the Blessed Virgin is the Franciscan Pope, Nicholas IV (1228-92), who commissioned Torriti to replace the Lateran's apse mosaic. Of liturgical interest, I would note the depiction of Nicholas IV in a full conical vestment with a Tau-shaped Cross orphrey, the long patterned dalmatic with its richly bejewelled hem and cuffs, the long thin pallium, pontifical gloves and ring, and the hive-shaped tiara with three bands. Thus, it seems, was the Roman pontiff arrayed in the thirteenth century.

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