- NORTHERN ITALY
- CENTRAL ITALY
- SOUTHERN ITALY
- INSULAR ITALY
Assisi is an important medieval village, famous for being the center of the life of St. Francis, which made it a purely religious and cultural place.
Walking through its streets, one can imagine the life of the saint, who has fascinated millions of people for his charisma, his ideals, his faith, his dedication to the poor and sick and the numerous mystical episodes of his life. The great Basilica of San Francesco, which preserves his remains and the objects of his life, is one of the most visited basilicas in Italy.
In memory of San Francesco d'Assisi, it will also be suggestive to visit the majestic Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, which houses the" Porziuncola", a small 4th century church, renovated by San Francesco and the first religious center of the Franciscan order.
Among the followers of San Francesco there was Santa Chiara, another saint symbol of the city, who founded the order of the Poor Clares. The Basilica of Santa Chiara, a high landmark of the city, was dedicated to her.
Not far from the Basilica of Santa Chiara is the Cathedral of San Rufino, a saint who lived in the first centuries after Christ and was the first bishop of Assisi. This suggests how ancient Assisi is and an important center even in Roman times. The Temple of Minerva bears witness to this, later transformed into a church in the Middle Ages, on the edge of what was once the Roman Forum.
A visit to the Rocca di Assisi will also be interesting, from the huge space in front of which it is possible to have an overview of all of Assisi and its surroundings.
Before entering the center of Assisi, it is advisable to reach an important Franciscan place, about 4 kilometers away from the center of Assisi: the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, built to incorporate and protect some emblematic places in the life of Saint Francis. The center of Assisi can be easily reached from the basilica, via a wide and straight path, which ends uphill, near the elevated city of Assisi. For those who cannot or want to reach the center on foot, there are numerous car parks near the city, such as the one near the San Masseo estate or the church of San Damiano.
The first stop inside the basilica is the Porziuncola, a small church built by St. Francis and his fellow Franciscans. The church takes its name from" Portiuncola", which literally indicates the small portion of land on which it stood. Here St. Francis has the vision in which Jesus grants him the Indulgence(known as the “Porziuncula Indulgence” or “ Assisi Pardon ”).
It is believed that the Porziuncola was built in the 4th century and then transformed by the Benedictine monks into the current chapel between the 10th and 11th centuries. After having remained abandoned for a long time, it was renovated by St. Francis between 1206 and 1208, and then donated to him by the Benedictines to make it the center of his religious order. Although it is the third church remodeled by St. Francis, this fact makes it an important center in the saint's life.
In the Basilica there is also the Transito, a stone room in which the infirmary was located, where Saint Francis spent the last days of his life and where he died on the evening of 3 October 1226. A symbolic place is the Rose Garden, with the roses in which St. Francis rolls to fight against doubt and temptation. According to the story, the plants in contact with the body of the saint lose their thorns, giving rise to the Rosa Canina Assisiensis.
The Temple of Minerva, or Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, is located in Piazza del Comune, the most important and central square of the city, built on the site of the Roman Forum. The Torre del Popolo, the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo and the Palazzo dei Priori are also located here.
The Temple of Minerva was transformed into a church in medieval times, becoming the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. The facade, characteristic of a Roman temple, is perfectly preserved, with the six columns resting directly on the staircase and surmounted by a Corinthian-style capital. It is believed that the temple, built in the 1st century BC, was dedicated to Hercules, even if it takes its name from the discovery of a statue of a woman.
Still in Piazza del Comune, right next to the Temple of Minerva, the Torre del Popolo stands out, a medieval tower erected between the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo and the temple. In front of the tower you can still admire a red stone plaque, with the reference measurements of the typical products of Assisi, as was the custom in medieval times near the market.
In front of the complex is the Palazzo dei Priori, the current seat of the municipality, while in the middle is the Fountain of the three lions. Under the current square, the ancient Roman Forum can be visited, where you can admire the bases of the temple, the seats of the magistrates and a small temple dedicated to Castor and Pollux.
Seen from a distance, the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi looks like a single church but, in reality, it is made up of two overlapping churches, the lower and upper Basilica. The large influx of tourists has led to the creation of a unique itinerary for his visit.
Built after the saint's death, numerous important Italian artists of the Middle Ages worked in this place, including Cimabue, Giotto, Lorenzetti and Simone Martini. In particular, in the upper church, there are the famous frescoes by Giotto which illustrate the life of San Francesco in 28 paintings.
On the lower floor, instead, there is the crypt with the tomb of San Francesco. Above the tomb burns a lamp with oil offered each year by a different Italian region. Around the saint are the tombs of his Franciscan"brothers", who shared friendship, history and faith with him in their earthly life. As a last stop before leaving, it is interesting to see the objects and clothes used by the saint.
Santa Chiara, fascinated by the preaching of St. Francis, at the age of 18 fled from her rich family to join Francis and the first friars at the Porziuncola. Soon she moved to the church of San Domenico where, joined by her sisters Agnese and Beatrice and her mother, she founded the Order of the Poor Clares. Here he lived and died after 42 years.
The Basilica of Santa Chiara was built immediately after his death, right next to the ancient church of San Giorgio, which had previously housed the remains of Saint Francis. The church is in Gothic-Umbrian style, with an interior with three naves. Behind the altar is the Oratory, with the Crucifix that spoke to San Francesco in the Hermitage of San Damiano and was the basis of his choice of life. Behind a grate there are some relics of Santa Chiara and San Francesco. From the stairs, located in the middle of the Basilica, one can also access the crypt with the body of the Saint.
The Cathedral of San Rufino is located near the Basilica of Santa Chiara, in a higher position. Dedicated to the first bishop of Assisi, who lived in the 3rd century, this church was built in the 12th century, in the space where there was the ancient Roman Forum and in the same place where there was a temple dedicated to the Bona Mater.
The Duomo is also a Franciscan place because it is believed that San Francesco and Santa Chiara were baptized here. The entrance to the house of Santa Chiara is also located in the same square. In this church, moreover, St. Francis made his first preaching.
The facade is considered a characteristic example of Umbrian Gothic, with three rose windows and three portals. In the Cathedral there is also a crypt which houses a small museum with artifacts found in Assisi and the first sarcophagus which housed the remains of the saint. Finally, it is possible to climb the bell tower, one of the highest points in the city, with the exception of the Rocca Maggiore.
If you are looking for a panoramic photo of the city, you can reach the Rocca Maggiore after a walk of about half a kilometre.
Historically the fortress was an object of struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines. Initially wanted and built by Federico Barbarossa in 1183 century, it was destroyed by the Guelph faction in 1198. It was later rebuilt by Cardinal d'Albornoz in 1365 and was part of the network of castles built to defend the Papal State.
Today the fortress offers a walk between centuries-old walls and a panoramic view of Assisi and its surroundings, along the entire perimeter of the space in front.
Palazzo Vallemani is the most beautiful building in Assisi and is located a few minutes from Piazza del Comune, in Via San Francesco.
The main floor is completely frescoed by Umbrian and Tuscan painters from the 17th century and houses the Municipal Art Gallery, with frescoes from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
The Eremo delle Carceri is one of the Franciscan places. About 4 kilometers from the city center, it is located in the heart of Monte Subasio, in the opposite direction to Sant'Angelo.
The name" Carceri" comes from the Latin" Carcer", which means"lonely place". Originally they were only very poor cells dug out of the rock; then, over the centuries, the parts that we can still admire today were added. It starts from the small cloister with the well, from which, according to legend, San Francesco made water flow. From here you enter the original cells of the religious clinging to the rock of the mountain. We then pass the Chapel of Santa Maria Maddalena and the Oratory of Santa Maria, where St. Francis met for prayer in common. Finally, we arrive at the most spiritual place of the Hermitage, the Grotta di San Francesco. On the bare and cold stone of this cell the Saint slept and prayed. A bridge connects the hermitage to the forest, where the caves where St. Francis and his companions prayed are still visible.