The photographic archive of the Sacred Convent of Saint Francis in Assisi

The photographic archive of the Sacred Convent of Saint Francis in Assisi (henceforth: the Archive) was born in the 60's of the twentieth century thanks to the competence and dedication of Fr. Gerhard Ruf (1910-2007), a Franciscan Minor Conventual friar belonging to the religious province of Germany, present in Assisi for over sixty years giving his service in welcoming German-speaking pilgrims. Fr. Gerhard combined a passion for photography to an innate predisposition for the organization and preservation of the documentary material, always attentive to the evolution of the filming techniques, as well as the methodologies of photo storage. In the course of the years he has collected and organized the material previously stored and has increased considerabley the heritage of the archive, by providing various photographic campaigns regarding the artistic treasures of the Basilica of Saint Francis, and the Sacred Convent. With the advent of the digital, in the 90’s, in the administration of the archive fr. Ruf was flanked, in a spirit of fraternal friendship, by the photographer Stefan Diller, from Wurzburg; in this period they started the project of digitizing a good part of the existing heritage and its cataloguing.

Its heritage

The patrimony of the Archive includes a historical section with about 800 negatives on glass plate, the gelatin to the salts of silver, and collodion, the end of the XIX century-beginning of the century XX, of which 318 were subjected to restoration work; about 150 flat films (negative and positive), and in nitrate and cellulose acetate; about 250 historical positive films on paper, were carried out with various techniques, from albumins to prints in carbon. In addition, there are about 12,000 photos bn (gelatine to development) of the second half of the 20th century, digitised and cataloged; about 10,000 Ektachrome slides; approximately 6,000 sheets/color slides of large format; about 500,000 Images in digital format. Besides there are also many videos, analogue and digital still to be ordered and cataloged.

Its objective

The archive was founded as a natural "container" of all of the documentation of natural vision produced and stored within the santuarial complex of the Basilica and the Sacred Convent of Saint Francis in Assisi. With the primitive conservation purposes were spontaneously superimposed two others of a more peculiar nature, that is, from one side to provide aid and assistance to many scholars interested in the precious historical-artistic heritage that characterizes the Assisian shrine, and on the other hand to ensure the necessary reference documentation for the many challenging restoration work that for decades interested in a sort of continuous cycle the various areas of the basilica and the convent. Especially in recent times, with the definitive affirmation of the digital format in the context of the photographic reproduction, a particular attention should be payed for the preservation of the numerous activities of pastoral and cultural nature in which the community of the Sacred Convent and other communities connected to it are involved.

The destination of the proceeds

The Archive has always played a role of purely institutional and cultural nature. In order to facilitate the retrieval of resources needed to preserve the integrity, protection and preservation of its heritage, particularley through this site, the Archives adds to its activities, the posibility of acquiring the right of reproduction of photographic images by a third party, both for the private and commercial use, in exchange of a contribution in addition to the cost of reproduction where necessary; the proceeds received will be used mainly to support the activities necessary for its operation (staff, hardware, software, materials for the restoration and conditioning of the analog heritage) and projects for cataloguing the collections with constraint of resources to be reinvested. This form of permission to use photos does not exclude permissions for free that, exceptionally, they may be arranged. It is perhaps to be emphasized that the purchase of a photo means also contributing indirectly to the ongoing work of maintenance and restoration that affects the Basilica of Saint Francis, an attentive and patient work which alone can ensure even to those who come after us the possibility to enjoy in their beauty and spiritual depth some of the masterpieces of world art which are the frescoes of Giotto, Simone Martini, Lorenzetti and other teachers who have expressed their genius in Assisi.

Digitizing ancient fund

In the present site, to the reproductions coming from the collections of the Archives, is flanked a selection of images from the project of digitizing of the ancient Fund of the municipal Library in Assisi, preserved at the Library of the Sacred Convent of Saint Francis. The project was realized by the International Society of Franciscan studies funded by the Ministry for Cultural Assets and Activities, and has affected the Fund of over 700 medieval manuscripts. In selecting specific attention was given to the most important manuscripts concerning Saint Francis and the beginning of the order he founded and to the most beautiful miniatures.