Modena's first Franciscan church was founded in 1221, when St Francis was still alive, but the present one, begun in 1244 was still not competed by the mid 15th century, then was completely restructured along with its convent in 1535. After Napoleon, it served as a barracks and suffered other indignities before it was restored as a church in the mid 19th century.
It houses one exceptional work of art, relocated to San Francesco from the deconsecrated church of Santa Margherita: the life size Deposition of Christ from the Cross with 13 terracotta figures (including SS Francis and Anthony of Padua) by Antonio Begarelli from around 1531, considered one of his masterpieces.
There was another work of Begarelli's here, but Napoleon's troops smashed it up for fun. Over the last few years san Francesco has undergone a very throrough rebuilding, occasioned by structural issues and the need for earthquake-proofing. The workmen found the pieces of Begarelli's statues under the floor, and the restorers are trying to see if they can put them together again.
Outside in the piazza, the charming Fontana di San Francesco, with a statue of the saint preaching to the fish by G. Graziosi, was cast in 1938.
Rua Frati Minori, 19
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Images by: Denny