An Italian friar who lived between 1181 and 1226 and became one of Christianity’s most revered figures, St Francis’s legacy has been a part of Indian history since the 16th century, when the order of mendicants he founded arrived in Kochi from Portugal. In Dehradun, his story was rendered for public viewing by another Italian, an artist who found himself in the city against his will and for whom the saint became a literal means of deliverance.
On a plaque affixed to the wall next to one of St Francis Church’s entrances is a timeline of events significant to the institution. Established in 1856, the church was rebuilt in 1910 after an earthquake destroyed the original building. The murals came much later. “1946: Events of the life of St. Francis of Assisi painted by the Italian artist Nino La Civita. Arranged by Ft. Luke OC.” Who was this painter? Why did he make frescoes in a church a continent and an ocean away? And what meanings might we read into his work?
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