Birdman of Assisi

Art and the Apocalyptic in the Colonial Andes
Jaime Lara
Birdman of Assisi


Birdman of Assisi: Art and the Apocalyptic in the Colonial Andes explores the reception of Saint Francis of Assisi and angels in the colonized Inca Empire. It examines images and beliefs related to birdmen among the Incas and other peoples of the Andes and how these were transformed in the colonial era by Christian missionaries. The author brings to light previously unknown images of Saint Francis with wings, flying through the air as a militant angel of the Apocalypse battling archfiends, rival religious orders, secular clergy, and even bishops. A key player in this transformation of the "little poor man" was the medieval prophet Joachim of Fiore and the influence that his eschatological prophecies had on the spiritual sons of Francis, especially in the new world. Although commissioned by the Francsican friars, the Andean paintings and sculptures were executed by native artists with native sensibilities that critique colonial society and reveal an approaching end of the world and a controversial, even violent, role for Francis of Assisi at a final cosmic battle. In colonial Mexico the author discovers a similar situation but with different artistic solutions. Birdman of Assisi documents how a beloved medieval saint gained a new following among Incas and other native peoples of the Americas and how he continues to resonate with the diverse Andean population, both Quechua and Spanish speaking, to this day.

Birdman of Assisi is copublished by Bilingual Press and Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

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About the Author

Jaime Lara is currently a research professor in the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS) and the Hispanic Research Center, both at Arizona State University. He had been a John Simon Guggenheim Senior Fellow and a Kress Fellow in the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art. He has taught at Yale University, the University of Notre Dame, and Northwestern University and has published City, Temple, Stage: Eschatological Architecture and Liturgical Theatrics in New Spain (2004), Christian Texts for Aztecs: Art and Liturgy in Colonial Mexico (2008), and with photographer Robert Lisak, The Flowering Cross: Holy Week in an Andean Village (2010).