ABSTRACT

On 21 January 1344, a year and a day after the death of her husband King Robert of Anjou, Queen Sancia of Majorca (1286-1345) entered the convent of Santa Croce di Palazzo in Naples. By this action, Sancia fulfilled a lifelong wish to enter the Franciscan order and when she died a year later, a monumental tomb was erected to hold her body in the convent church. This now lost monument commissioned by Queen Giovanna I of Anjou used a highly innovative iconographic design which recognized the roles that her grandmother Sancia assumed during her lifetime, as both an Angevin monarch and a devout Clarissan sister. The tomb presents an interesting case study through which to consider these positions, and to explore how a female patron used iconography to construct persuasive visual evidence supporting the case for Sancia’s canonization. In particular, the imagery provides insight into the central role that devotion to the Eucharist and imitatio Christi played in Sancia’s spirituality. This essay both analyzes the significance of these to Sancia and examines the ways that they connect her to the Franciscans. Indeed, her tomb represents an extraordinary departure from the long-standing iconography found on sepulchres in the late medieval kingdom of Naples as evident in the image on the sarcophagus which depicts Sancia seated amongst her fellow nuns at a banquet table (fig. 7.1). This scene is often interpreted as an unusual ‘female Last Supper’ yet such a limited reading of this imagery aims to characterize it within established and static categories and thus fails to consider how it intentionally blurs and subverts accepted boundaries surrounding gendered behaviour and representation.