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National Gallery to explore legacy of Saint Francis of Assisi in new exhibition

Francisco de Zurbaran’s paintingSaint Francis In Meditation (The National Gallery, London/PA)
Francisco de Zurbaran’s paintingSaint Francis In Meditation (The National Gallery, London/PA)

An exhibition exploring the life and legacy of Saint Francis of Assisi will open at the National Gallery next spring.

Saint Francis (1182–1226) was a revered religious figure who was canonised by Pope Gregory IX in the 13th century and made the designated patron saint of Italy along with Catherine of Siena.

He was also made the patron saint of ecology in 1979 by Pope John Paul II.

Running from May 6 to July 30 2023, the exhibition will feature imagery from the 13th Century to the present day including artwork, relics, manuscripts, films and even a Marvel comic book.

The exhibition is due to run from May 6 to July 30 2023 (Antony Gormley/Tate/PA)

Curators will bring together paintings from across the National Gallery’s collection by artists including Sassetta, Botticelli and Zurbaran.

It will also feature international loans including Caravaggio’s Saint Francis Of Assisi In Ecstasy, as well as works by Stanley Spencer, Antony Gormley and Giuseppe Penone.

British sculptor Richard Long has been commissioned to do a piece for the exhibition.

The gallery has said that the range of artwork will “throw light on how Saint Francis has captured the imagination of artists, and how his appeal has transcended time, continents and differing religious traditions”.

It added that the exhibition aims to examine how his “spiritual radicalism, his commitment to the poor, his love of God and nature” and how his striving for “peace between enemies and openness to dialogue with other religions” is still relevant today.

The show will be curated by National Gallery director Gabriele Finaldi and the gallery’s Ahmanson research associate curator in art and religion, Joost Joustra.

It will be accompanied by an illustrated publication and a programme of lectures, events, activities and digital content.