Thursday, January 28, 2016

In His Tomb


I know nothing about Francis of Assisi. Well, I know he was pro-poverty... or something to that effect. Oh, and was he the nutjob who jumped into a briar patch because he felt horny? Maybe it was chastity or maybe Br'er Rabbit's just that hot. Hey, what monks and folk heroes do behind closed bushes is their own business...
What else? Oh yeah, stigmata. That's about it.

I don't know much about Saint Francis but I like him. Not only did he totally nail the whole "lunatic ascetic" monkish media figure (the guy preached to birds) but, supernatural gibberish aside, his image, his persona seems to evoke so closely the archetypal self-destructively dedicated social reformer that it provides century after century of inspiration. It's not just that Umberto Eco made the heroes of The Name of the Rose Franciscans, or that Zarathustra and Siddhartha drum more than a few of Francis' footsteps across continents, but his largely imagined, stern, somewhat pained patrician visage which has fueled some of the best paintings in history.

My favorite would have to be Zurbaran's macabre, wall-sized effigy, which I was honored to have looming over me during a museum visit a few years ago, or maybe Bellini's slightly more upbeat imagining, though any number of random images now conveniently google-able may serve. Don't really need to know much about Francis to be impressed with the impact his persona has had on artistic depictions of intrapersonal workings. Whether true to the original nutjob stigmatist or not, we could use more figures like him in movies, games, what-have-you. More patron saints of somber kindness and peaceful midnight vigils, more serene, animal-loving, plain-clad, honestly deluded do-gooders.

No, this individualized moratorium on my hatred of fundie brainwashing has nothing to do with that story about Francis taming a wolf. I only now found out about it. It's a coincidence - a hilarious coincidence; the sort which, were I sheepishly inclined, I would take as celestial signo to convert and do some vincesing in the name of Saint Frankie.

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