Terni

Chiesa di San Francesco, Terni

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The Chiesa di San Francesco, overlooking the central square of the same name, stands on the site of an ancient chapel dedicated to San Cassiano, donated to St Francis in 1218 by Bishop Rainerio, who was fascinated by the charisma of the saint who often preached in the city. 

At that time, the area was outside the city centre, among gardens and fields extending to the west, where St Francis used to take refuge in meditation. The construction of the church began in 1265, about 40 years after the death of St Francis, adopting the model of the Franciscan churches of Assisi, with a single nave and a transept.

Between the 14th and 16th centuries, significant changes were made to the building, to adapt the space to the new demands of the increasingly large Franciscan community, situated at an important crossroads, a strategic staging post for friars on their pilgrimages.  The gabled facade, with its central gable decorated with hanging arches, clearly shows the addition of two aisles (1437). Antonio da Orvieto constructed the elegant bell tower, decorated with multi-coloured green and blue majolica (1445). In addition to the opening of the Capella di San Bernardino da Siena, dedicated to the founder of the Observant Franciscans who visited Terni a number of times, among the most important changes of considerable artistic and cultural value was the early 15th-century construction of the Paradisi family chapel, to the right of the presbytery, decorated with frescoes of the Last Judgment, completed around 1450 by the Foligno painter Bartolomeo di Tommaso.  The commissioner of the work, Monaldo Paradisi, linked to the Observant Franciscans and passionate supporter of the reforms preached by Giacomo della Marca (the successor of Bernardino da Siena), wanted an image of one of the saint's many sermons to be placed there. San Bernardino would frequently impress his audience by recounting the rewards and punishments to be expected at the end of their lives.

The sanctuary is now part of the Via di Francesco and the journey of the first Franciscan martyrs, an interesting initiative to discover the sites and history of the first Franciscan martyrs.