Thursday, January 01, 2009

San Francisco Treasures

On New Years Eve day, I met my parents in North Beach, and we went to mass at the shrine of St. Francis. This is a beautiful little gem of a church, all cream and gold and turn-of-the-century stained glass. It was a parish church for many years, and is now the officially designated national shrine of St. Francis of Assisi, San Francisco's patron.

I have a fondness for Francis that probably dates back to my reading of the Marvel Comics version of his life. How can you resist a man who preaches the Gospel to wolves and birds? So I was amazed and thrilled by Angela Alioto's most recent audacious project, that of building a perfect three-quarters replica of Francis' Porziuncula church in San Francisco, right next door to the shrine.

The original Porziuncula is a small chapel built by Francis and his early followers. There is now a cathedral around it, and some very dramatic medieval art frescoed inside and outside. Thanks to Angela Alioto, San Francisco now possessed a perfect slightly smaller replica of it, which has been declared by the Pope to be one of the 'five holy places' of the world. Oh, and it has an original twelfth century rock, carefully sealed with tape and wax, from the original building, that lives in a little iron container by the altar.

It's absolutely gorgeous, small and beautiful, and full of haimish holiness. It's an amazing treasure that has just quietly become part of San Francisco. If you have the slightest interest in religious art, or Francis, or anything of that sort, go and see this place. It's stunning.

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