The eastern panel of the cross vault above the principle altar of the Lower Basilica depicts an allegory of Poverty, one of the three vows which Francis' friars take in order concretely to implement their following of Christ in religious life; in fact, poverty is an evangelical counsel to which every Christian is called according to his/her condition of life. The fresco depicts the wedding between Francis and Lady Poverty, symbolically narrated in the "Sacrum Commercium", a literary text of 1227 attributed to either Giovanni of Parma or Giovanni Parenti. It is Christ himself who presides at the wedding in the presence of angels and saints, who follow the ceremony with varying countenances of intense amazement.

The wedding robe of the bride is torn and patched, fastened at the waist with the same kind of cord used by the earliest friars. Our Lady Poverty is found among the brambles and is firmly grounded on the sign of the cross depicted at her feet. Urchins humiliate her for her apparent ugliness, throwing stones at her, provoking her with dogs and tormenting her with sticks. Nonetheless around her life itself blooms the waist, as symbolized by the flowering bushes of lilies and roses behind her.

The groom, Francis, gazes into her eyes with love. He expressed his decision to make her his bride by giving back the rich robes and earthly possessions of his youth to the Heavenly Father, as depicted by the angels at the top of the vault. In the lower left corner a young man is giving the gift of his own vestment to a poor man, in obedience to the gospel invitation to "clothe the naked" (Matthew 25:36). An angel points to Francis as an example and prophecy of a truly evangelical life.

The frescoed panel dedicated to Lady Poverty is about to undergo an intervention for its conservation, along with the other Giottesque frescoes found in this area over the main altar of the Lower Basilica. You may browse on-line at:
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The funds raised will contribute especially to the restoration of the central part of the western vault, the fresco in which Saint Francis is seen enthroned in the glory of heaven.