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Byzantine Icons, Franciscan Prayer: Images Of Intercession And Ascent In The Upper Church Of San Francesco, Assisi

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Chapter Summary

The Deesis vault has justly been called the key and culmination of the entire conceptual program of the Upper Church of San Francesco at Assisi. For the primary images of Christ at Assisi, the Deesis and Christ on the cross, were adapted from Byzantine art, a fact that is often noted but which still raises fundamental questions about the Franciscans' appreciation, understanding, and refashioning of models imported from the east. "Imported" Byzantine images of Christ effectively modify the dynamics of the western, basilican architectural space in a way that alters the meaning of the Byzantine image and subtly, yet clearly, suggests the dynamics of Bonaventure's theology of prayer and salvation. The result is a Franciscan sacred space, expressive of Franciscan theology, and fostering Franciscan prayer. Like the Christus patiens, the Deesis vault is patterned on Byzantine iconography, reformulating the fundamental Byzantine image of prayer and intercession.

Keywords: basilican architectural space; Byzantine iconography; Byzantine image; Christus patiens; Deesis vault; Franciscan prayer; San Francesco



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