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St Francis of Assisi Church

The Church of St. Francis of Assisi of the Friars Minor Conventual, built in the 18th century, is one of the most beautiful churches in 18th-century Monopoli, because it expresses a Renaissance Baroque style in terms of volume and space.
The desire to build a new church by destroying the pre-existing one, which no longer held up to the aspirations and needs of the people, and which had certainly 'fallen down', except for a side façade where there was a small door, is recorded in a precious manuscript in the Unique Diocesan Archive. The architect was Michele Colangiuli of Acquaviva.
The design for the church of St. Francis was made by an architect who, months later, on January 1742, with engineer Magarelli Pietro of Molfetta, stipulated the instrument for the rebuilding of the famous Basilica della Madonna della Madia, the patron saint of Monopoli. Michele Colangiuli was trusted by religious orders and institutions; sources describe him as having extraordinary technical expertise combined with profound honesty and exceptional diligence in his work.
The church with its two-tiered bell tower was completed around 1749, as can be seen from the inscription on the Triumphal Arch. Mastro Nicolò Ferrante from the city of Lecce was called as an expert of the Franciscan friars, and Sallustio, an engineer from the city of Andria, was called as an expert of Colangiuli.
The entire exterior reveals themes carried out by Vanvitelli, the famous Neapolitan architect who was also here in Barletta and perhaps Fasano, and who by then was carrying out Borromini themes in his works. Thus Colangiuli carries out the idea of the exterior successfully, and harmonises it with the single-nave interior, with chapels not communicating with each other; columns support the architraves of the side chapels; the nave unfolds with balance in its space, and emphasises the cross vault and dome. For the stucco work, Colangiuli called in Carlo Cassino, an engineer and architect from the city of Milan. It should be noted that in an architecture such as his, based on design and light, stuccoes, which serve to delineate different shadow profiles, to highlight large light surfaces, are of great importance. Harmonic is the articulation of vaults, doors, oval windows: articulation that is resolved in the relationship between space and light.
Everything is measured and collected. Thus, drawing on the rich solutions of the Roman Baroque, the master aimed to renew, in the spirit of classicism, the strongly chiaroscuro decoration of Neapolitan convent churches.

Graziano Bellifemine, The Church of St Francis in Monopoli, May 1981.

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CREDITS: Comune di Monopoli.

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