This soaring interior mural in a San Francisco, California Shrine…


…makes use of the decorative elements of the school of Giotto which are original to the 13th century early gothic-style church, Basilica di Santa Chiara in Assisi, Italy.

A Holy Site for all nationalities and faiths, The Shrine was envisioned and built by Angela Alioto, reknown native San Francisco Stateswoman and of Italian heritage. Craftsmen and craftswomen of international stature were assembled to create a reproduction of the Italian stone chapel, in Assisi which St. Francis called “Porziuncola,” or “little portion.” Together with Dr. Elisa Stephens, President of the Academy of Art University of San Francisco, Ms. Alioto also envisioned young artists assisting in painting the church, as in the Middle Ages. A generous gift of a student mural was made by Dr. Stephens.

In keeping with the Medieval guild system by which apprentices learned their craft by working under a master before setting up on their own, a volunteer group of six Master of Fine Art students from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, signed on to work under the direction of Master Muralist Angela Tirrell. The group created a medieval style mural using decoration from the birth region of St. Frances.

The mural group researched the rich decorative elements framing Giotto’s fresco cycle of St. Francis’ life and created a digital elevation of the mural wall. Next, paper templates were made of intricate banding and gold leaf samples were made of elements such as the sun, symbolizing Saint Francis, and the moon, symbolizing his sister Saint Claire and 33 stars symbolizing the age of Christ at his crucifixion. The paper templates were affixed to the mural wall in the order the viewer now sees, and having finalized the scale of all elements the students created durable cloth templates and transferred the hundreds of geometric shapes onto the wall surface, then proceeded with the meticulous hand painting and leafing. The research stage and ensuing mural process was documented through complex creative stages by site Photographer Jorge Lavorerio.

Countless hours were given to painting in meditative silence and a strong bond grew between the group of artists. The creation of this mysterious and hallowed mural is in homage to the visionary, friend to all in need, Saint Francis of Assisi.

  • Angela Tirrell - Master Muralist, September 2008

  • Jorge Lavorerio - Site Photographer/Associate Painter

MFA STUDENTS: Jonathan Ahn, Ross Bowns, Ahmad Manar Laham, Sunghoon Lee, Nick Kiripolsky, Jason Zampol