St Francis and the Hazelnut

st francis & hazelnutThis devotional  piece was inspired by my on-going study of Franciscan art and made in the late Medieval Italian style, using the same (700 year old) methods. It was created  specifically for a parish priest in central London who has a devotion to St Francis of Assisi.

But somehow Julian of Norwich’s famous motif of the hazelnut crept into this composition – and happily seemed to fit. (Hopefully the meditative theme of the Unity of Creation eclipses any anachronism…)

Although Mother Julian was born 116 years after the death of St Francis in 1226, there is for me something inherently Franciscan in her deep desire to seek unity with the God who is “…the creator and protector and the lover” of all things. As Julian explains in ‘Revelations of Divine Love’:

“And in this he showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand….In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third is that God preserves it.

But what did I see in it? It is that God is the creator and protector and the lover. For until I am substantially united to him, I can never have perfect rest or true happiness, until, that is, I am so attached to him that there can be no created thing between my God and me.”*

(1st Revelation, chapter 5)

*Source: Michael Marsh:

St Francis of Assisi

St Francis of Assisi

This image of St Francis is taken from the famous ‘Bardi Dossal’, the massive gable-topped Vita panel in the main Franciscan Church of Santa Croce, Florence and is often attributed to Coppo di Marcovaldo, circa 1263.

It was one of the earliest Vita panels in Europe to depict a full-length saint, surrounded by 20 scenes from his life and post-mortum miracles. (The format being based on Byzantine models such as the Vita icon of St Katherine of Alexandria, St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai.)

Icon Adventures Students visiting the St Francis vita panel
Icon Adventures Students visiting the St Francis Vita panel, Bardi Chapel, S Croce, Florence

Previously, only Christ had been shown in such a way, which confirms Francis’s role as alter Christus. It is thought that the Bardi Dossal influenced the subject matter and iconography in some of scenes from the St Francis Cycle in the Upper Church of the Basilica di San Francesco, Assisi.

This panel was painted in Assisi as part of a 12-day icon painting pilgrimage based in the historic centre of Assisi.

For dates of upcoming retreats in Assisi 2018, please visit the sister website:

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