Assisi, Italy



Top Sights in Assisi

In 1182 Saint Francis (Francesco) was born into a wealthy family.  After a reckless youth (including imprisonment) Francis had a vision that led him to give away his earthly belongings and the right to his inheritance.  He tried to follow the Bible literally, living his life as Jesus did.  In the year 1200 he challenged the Church government with a message of simplicity and anti-materialism, all at a time when families and towns feuded continually over power.  He started the Franciscan brotherhood of monks.  He died in 1226 in self imposed poverty.  


About the same time Saint Clare (Chiara) dedicated her life to helping the poor and in doing so also gave up all of her worldly possessions.  She was the founder of the Order of the Poor Clares.


Eventually the church embraced their simple messages and in 1939 they were both made patron saints.  Today many of the visitors to Assisi are not tourists, but pilgrims coming to Assisi to pay tribute to these two and reflect on their own life. 


Basilica of St. Francis- This basilica was built to honor St. Francis.  When Francis died in 1226 he was buried outside the town on a hill now called the “Hill of Paradise.”  The church was built on top of this spot.  Today there are three parts of the church to see: the upper basilica, the lower basilica and below that, the tomb.


The tomb is were St. Francis’ remains are kept in a stone osuary.  You can join the many people who come to sit in a pew and pay their respects. 


The lower basilica is simple Romanesque style (very Franciscan).  The nave has frescos depicting scenes showing parallels between the lives of Christ and Francis.  Some of these frescos were cut through when side chapels were added as a result of the popularity of the church.


The upper basilica is in Gothic style, and was badly damaged by the earthquake that struck the area in 1997.  In 1999 the repairs were completed and the basilica opened to the public again.  There are many windows, the light from which shines on 28 frescos depicting the life of St. Francis.  


Basilica di Santa Chiara (Saint Clare)- Built in 1265 this church was dedicated to Saint Clare, the founder of the Order of Poor Clares.  The church is rather simple, built in Gothic style.  Below the nave are the remains of Saint Clare.  


Santa Maria degli Angeli- This large church was built around a small chapel given to Francis by the Pope.  Francis lived and died in a small hut near the original chapel after founding the Franciscan order in 1208.


Note- Most churches in Italy have a strict dress code.  No shorts, dresses above the knee, hats, tank tops, halter tops or bare shoulders are allowed. Come prepared, or you will be denied entrance.  


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