St. Clare and St. Francis: The Christian-Muslim Encounter in Italian Art

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This paper explores the representations of the celebrated scene of St. Francis of Assisi and the Ayyūbid Sultan al-Malik al-Kāmil in comparison with the scene depicting St. Clare expelling the Saracens1 from Assisi as two prototypes for the Muslim and Christian encounter in the Franciscan Italian context. It first examines the central myth of Francis’s activity as a missionary in Egypt and his meeting with the sultan, examining several artistic examples in the churches of Santa Croce and Ognissanti in Florence; it next treats St. Clare and the Clarissan experience in Renaissance and baroque art. John Tolan’s book Saint Francis and the Sultan has already examined in detail the re-presentations of Francis’s encounter with the sultan in the history of art, most especially the evolution of the celebrated scene of the trial by fire from its beginnings until modern times. Instead, I will examine in comparison the development of a scene with a female Franciscan protagonist: St. Clare expelling the Saracens from Assisi.2 This study, in contrast with the existing literature, which focuses on the earlier images of Francis and Clare in medieval art, will concentrate on the later tradition, that of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and I shall examine the subtext and context of the representation of these scenes. The goal of this essay is to highlight points of continuity and innovation with regard to the medieval Franciscan tradition. It does so via an analysis of the works of art that highlight Franciscan perceptions of St. Francis and St. Clare regarding the Christian and Muslim encounter and within the preaching mentality and sermon literature in the early modern period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-118
Number of pages29
JournalThe Muslim World
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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