Preaching to the birds

By Dominique Guilbault

Purgatory, an ephemeral, intermediate realm, newly mapped between the beyond and down here, did not always exist. It became a dogma in 1274. Undoubtedly, Saint Francis of Assisi, whose life coincided with the establishment of this intermediate place, had something to do with it. A legendary name, a saint who saves certain values, a man who speaks to birds, appears as a recurring figure in history. With distancing and transformations, his messengers, including Giotto, Rossellini, and Pasolini, were able to give him a human inflection – the type of humanity liable to be dehumanized in ours societies today.

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