Above the altar of the first chapel of the left aisle, we find a painting by an unknown artist of the seventeenth century depicting St. Francis from Paola: The Calabrian Saint, founder of the Minimi order (1416-1507). Saint venerated in almost every seaside town.
He was born in Paola (Cosenza) in 1416 by parents faithful to St. Francis, who attributed the birth of their child to the intercession of the saint of Assisi. Hence the name and the decision to send him to religious life in the Franciscan Order.
After a year of testing, however, the young man left the convent and continued his vocational search with trips and pilgrimages. Finally he chose the life of a hermit and retired to Paola in a family-owned territory.
He became famous as a miracle worker and he created many cures, especially for the poor and oppressed.
This fame also reached Paris, and the French king Louis XI, who, sick, asked to the Pope Sixtus IV to send him Francis.
Francis reached the king of France, but could not heal him; however, he was well-liked and started a period of favourable relations between the papacy and the French court. He remained in France 25 years. He died near Tours the 2nd of April, 1507.
But why is Francis from Paola so revered, particularly in seaside cities?
The reason lies in this famous episode:
One day he was asked to also start a community in Milazzo, Sicily.
With two brothers he set about crossing the Strait of Messina; here he asked a fisherman if for the love of God he could take him to the other side, but he refused, because they could not pay for it.
Unperturbed Francis tied one of his cloak edges to his stick, climbed up with the two brothers, and crossed the Strait with that improvised sail boat.
So we discover a special bond of the Saint with both our seaside town (in Savona there is also a parish dedicated to St. Francis of Paola and is the most populous), and the Pope Sixtus IV of Savona.
Rightfully Francis from Paola welcomes the faithful and pilgrims in the Cathedral of Savona.
But there is still a “curiosity” to detect, maybe just a happy coincidence: while Francis from Paola is the host of the first chapel of the left aisle, Francis from Assisi (in two large paintings) is the host of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel just at the end to the left aisle.
This post is also available in: Italian