Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Todi: "a moment, a twinkling"

Our colleague, Maria Traub, (left) organized a class trip to Todi. Her class, Saints and Relics is only open to Franciscan Heritage Program students. But I think that we have tapped into something real in the hearts and minds of our students. I judge that by the number of students from other classes who ask to join our group as we travel to places around Umbria. Church after church, crypt after crypt.
We visited the the beautiful, if slightly shabby, church of San Fortunato, noting frescoes resembling those of Giotto in Assisi and a fragment of the famous Virgin with Child and Angels by Masolino da Panicale. (See above right.)

Housed under San Fortunato, are the remains of the famous but controversial Franciscan poet and spiritualist Jacopone de Todi. (His image on the outside wall is shown on the left.) According to legend, Jacopone, was a nobleman educated in law at Bologne. In his early forties, a floor gave way in his home during a fancy ball and his wife was crushed to death. He discovered, to his great surprise, that his wife was wearing a hairshirt of a penitent under her gown. Subsequently, he became a Franciscan, following strictly the original form of life of Francis of Assisi. And this brought him into conflict with the Pope who advocated a less stringent form of Franciscan life. Jacopone is best known for his religious poetry. Here's a sample:

So many proud princes, and power so splendid,
In a moment, a twinkling, all utterly ended.
- De Contemptu Mundi

We’ve been to Todi three times; twice in pouring rain and once in unbearable summer heat. Too bad. Todi is beautiful, with the magnificent Piazza dei Popolo bordered by the twenty-nine steps of the Duomo.
Finally, is the must-see Santa Maria della Consolazione with its beautiful dome and epicyclical interior. The design of this church is attributed to Bramante, better known for his design of St. Peter’s although this is disputed. The story of this church is that it was built to celebrate the miraculous restoration of sight of a worker who had wiped his face and eyes with a rag that he had used to dust the image of the Virgin Mary.

(From top clockwise: Rino, Judy, Me, Patrick, Noel, Phil, Mike, Maria Traub.)

Of course, the highlight of the day for me was the wonderful pranzo we ate with the students at Pane e Vino. (Only later did I realize the theological significance of this name!)

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