The Gubbio Statue

What is the old expression? “Good things come to those who wait.” A little more than 18 months ago there was a chance discussion with one of our parishioners, Francesca Bacci, an art history professor at the University of Tampa. She wanted to be more active in the parish and wondered what opportunities there might be. Given her expertise in medieval art, specifically Italian and in the era of St. Francis, I thought there could be some great opportunities for presentations on the art of Giotto and the art that adorns the basilica of St Francis in Assisi.

In the background of all this, I had been nurturing the idea of something that would lend a Franciscan image to our parish/church property. That was the topic of the Jan. 21 pastor column. My own idea was for a statue that portrayed the story of St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio. As it happens, Francesca’s father, Fiorenzo, is an internationally known artist who has done many major sculptures of St. Francis and his life. They are placed in locales that are prominent in the early history of St. Francis: Assisi, San Damiano, La Verna, Greccio, the Carcheri, and others. And so was born the idea of a Sacred Heart’s commissioning of St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio. Pictured here is the artist’s initial “sketch” – still in rough – which served as a proposal to tell the story of St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio. The Feb. 4 bulletin tells the basic story and shares the artist’s reflection that was incorporated into the art.

From time to time, in this column, I have let everyone know the on-going status of the work from first conceptualization through to its creation and casting in the foundry. I am very pleased to tell you that the work is now with us in Tampa with final plans coming together for its placement and dedication this month.

I am grateful for the serendipitous meeting with Dr. Bacci, a parishioner just seeing how she could more deeply belong to the parish community. And I am grateful for the support and management from Jerry DiFabrizio. Jerry is the owner of Tampa Tile, a parishioner, who stepped up to assist us when we were running into problems of how we could move the statue from the foundry to the parish. Jerry and the folks of Tampa Tile shepherded the finished statue from foundry, through export, shipping and import – and the amazing array of paperwork that accompanies such a process. Along the way we had some legal and accounting advice from several parishioners. Many hands make for light work.

Last week we met with the “installation team,” Dr. Bacci, Dr. Jack King of the University of Tampa (specializing in sculpture), and Brian Bunbury, our general contractor. It is fascinating not only all that goes into placing the sculpture on site, but also all the details built into the artwork itself that facilitate its placement and anchoring in place. How did they get the wolf pup and St. Francis’ cord (shown in the picture) to be permanent and fit in the shipping box?

And all of this was made possible by donors from the parish. In true Franciscan fashion, none of the donors are desirous of credit or attention for their gifts. To all our donors and supporters, please know that the Friar community and the parish are grateful for your contribution to this Franciscan vision.

Lots of work between now and then, but it looks as though it will all come together. So, make plans to join us on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 9:30 a.m., outside the church on Twiggs Street, for the dedication and blessing of St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio.

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