–Text provided by Sr. Jean Moore-
Francis Preaching to the Birds by Giotto di Bondone is a fresco found in the Upper Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. It was inspired by the account taken from the twenty-first chapter of The Life of St. Francis written by the biography of Francis, Thomas of Celano, in 1229. The scene conveys a sense of brotherhood/sisterhood with nature, as with The Canticle of the Creatures, and hints at a lovely pause in the arduous task of preaching the Gospel way of life to the faithful that Francis undertook as the focus of his life.
The fresco is found on the back, right wall of the Upper Basilica, seen more commonly by the visitors as they exit the Basilica. With this image, one is reminded to be in harmony with all, and to take some time for contemplation to listen to the voice of God through others and through nature.
The Uccelli, as it is known in Italian, is a logical choice for Viterbo’s collection because of its recognition as a manifestation of Francis’s connection to all of creation. It goes beyond simply the “Francis of the Birdbath” attribute to which many have ascribed Francis, and by its placement, is an exhortation to communicate and be in relationship with all. As an academic community with a Franciscan charism, this exhortation lies at the core of the University’s values of hospitality, contemplation, service, stewardship and integrity.