The original Porziuncola, the little church that St. Francis of Assisi began rebuilding in 1206 to honor the Virgin Mary, is where the Franciscan Friar began his mission to follow the Gospel, live a life of absolute poverty, pray and advocate for peace and care for the poor, the sick and the animals. St. Francis called the Porziuncola the “source of his inspiration in his adoration of God.”
Millions of people visit the Porziuncola in Italy each year and are inspired by both its spiritual significance and its intricately detailed design elements. It was very important to Angela Alioto, the visionary behind the project, and Nibbi that the Porziuncola showcased perfect craftsmanship and attention to detail. Because of this, the team traveled to Italy to get a real feel for the Porziuncola as well as the structure’s actual dimensions. With the blessing of the Assisi’s Provincial Minister Massimo Reschiglan, Nibbi Brothers built a scale replica of the Porziuncola chapel adjacent to the St. Francis of Assisi Church in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. The old gym of the church was gutted out and renovated in order to hold the chapel replica.
The original Porziuncola structure is made of stone; the San Francisco replica is designed incorporating a concrete structure with stone cladding. The Nibbi Concrete team did an exceptional job of providing an accurate structural concrete skeleton to work off of by using 3-D computerized modeling to aid in the formwork design for the compound radius dome, vaulted roof and niches. The façade stone is from the mountain behind Assisi, which the team selected during their trip. Limestone plaster was used for the door and window molding, and the floor’s marble was purchased and cut in Italy, then shipped to California, along with the woodwork and frescoes.