There, in the middle of this manicured lawn, was a modern statue of the great man himself, sitting on his horse.
There was a plaque on the ground next to the statue and it had an inscription in Italian and in English. I was more than usually interested in the story of the statue given the particularly depressed aspect of the subjects and this is what was inscribed on the plaque...........
"Lord what do you want me to do ?"
"Go back to your city and you will be told what you must do."
At the break of day, Francis, with his reformed inner self, desired only to conform to the will of God.
Now remember that Francis, or Francesco, was a bit of a lad in his youth and in his early 20's he enlisted in the army when he had the life altering dream that is referred to in the inscription above. This dream became a religious revelation and he returned to Assisi a much changed man who gave up all his worldly ways and founded the holy order that bears his name.
I guess in my simple way I always think that a religious revelation, a life altering moment, would be a happy event. Then again it may depend on the sort of life you were leading before the revelation and if you were enjoying it. I suspect Francis was enjoying every minute of his but you'd think a statue on the grounds of his basilica, a basilica he helped build, would want to reflect the joy and happiness he felt when receiving the dream, this message from God.
In that case, I think this statue is sending out a mixed message as both Francesco, and his horse for some reason, don't seem particularly happy about the turn his life is about to take. Maybe they are both bowing their heads out of respect but it looked to me as if he was reading a letter telling him his pet dog had just been run over by a speeding ox and cart back in Assisi.
His inner self may have been resolved but I think he needed a bit more work on his outer self !!