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June 22, 2000


MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.- Dancing Francis, a nine-foot bronze sculpture of St. Francis of Assisi, is being sent next week as a gift from Viterbo University, La Crosse to the Franciscan Sisters in Assisi, Italy.

The original sculpture, located on the Viterbo campus, was commissioned several years ago by the University with funds from an anonymous donor. The sculpture depicts St. Francis of Assisi dancing on a crescent of the moon, holding a sun disk in his hands.  "There are many accounts of St. Francis singing of his relationship to brother Sun and Sister Moon," said Minnesota sculptor Paul T. Granlund.  "The Franciscan Sisters in La Crosse and in Assisi embraced this vision of a more cosmic Francis- one that was not limited exclusively to an association with birds and animals."

"We approached shipping a contemporary work of religious art to Italy, the undisputed center of religious art in the western world, with respect for the centuries-old Franciscan images of St. Francis," said Dr. William J. Medland, President of Viterbo University.  "But when Franciscans in both Italy and the U.S. enthusiastically endorsed Granlund’s interpretation, we knew that Dancing Francis would withstand the test of time."

Northwest Airlines became an active partner in the gift by agreeing to provide transportation.  The airline’s recent inauguration of direct flights between Minneapolis /St. Paul and Rome will make shipping the 800-pound sculpture an overnight affair.  Upon arrival in Assisi, Dancing Francis will be received by the Franciscan Sisters of Atonement and permanently installed at their St. Anthony’s Guest House.

Officials of Viterbo University plan an October pilgrimage to Assisi in order to dedicate Dancing Francis.  Viterbo University, a Catholic, Franciscan University, was founded in 1890 by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.  Visitors to the Viterbo campus in La Crosse and the home of St. Francis in Assisi will now be able to share- in the words of St. Francis- "the spirit of brother Sun and sister Moon"


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