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Assisi Italy

Assisi is perhaps the most visited site in all of Umbria. This is deservedly so, even though Umbria is spotted with wonderful places for all kinds of travelers and tourists.

Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis, born in 1182. Yup, that makes him older than me. I grew up knowing about St. Francis of Assisi and his love of animals and peace on earth, and I’m not even Catholic.

St. Francis of Assisi, street art

Just a piece of street art on a side street in Assisi, says it all.

When I signed up to go to Umbria, I started looking at the web, and I was thrilled to know that Assisi was a spears throw away from where we would be headquartered. TBU and the Umbria tourism people did a wonderful job of making a pre-conference tour to this medieval city available.

Assisi is strategically located on top of a small mountain, or high hill, depending on your perspective. In fact, throughout Umbria there are medieval cities, surrounded by walls, occupying defensive positions in elevated areas.

Assisi

My first view of this city on the hill, from a bus window. Not much of a photo, but somehow I hope it conveys my enthusiasm.

The towns, although constructed before anyone dreamed of the new world, are still vibrant homes to hundreds of people. Residents go about their days, walking streets laid out in the 12th century. The reason we were guests here is so that we would blog to the world and promote tourism. I hope we help a little but it would be a shame if thousands of google-eyed, awe struck people like me wandered the cobblestone streets which are actually someone’s proud home. So, only half of you go, OK?

assisi alley

This is what it is like in a medieval village in 2012. You can wander these streets at your own pace without any hurry, or hawkers. You can imagine people doing the same for hundreds of years . The effect is describable only as magical.

The centerpiece attraction in Assisi is the Basilica of St. Francis. There are two levels to this structure. They actually make up two churches. The upper was built in 1230 to 1253 on top of the lower that was finished in 1230. Both levels are wondrously decorated by the greatest artists of the 13th and 14th centuries and have fantastic stained glass windows.

The Basilica as it stands today. Partially damaged by an earthquake about 20 years ago, money flowed in from around the world to restore it.

St. Francis of Assisi frescoe denouncing his wealth

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the Basilica so I took this picture of a picture, sorry. The real frescoe is much nicer of course. This is a depiction of St. Francis denouncing his wealth to his father. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant. St. Francis wanted something different. He went off to do battle, but he found great fault with that lifestyle. He then lived as a beggar for a year, and then became a friar. He was never ordained as a preist, but his legacy is one of the greatest in Christiandom.

So what is a Basilica I hope you are asking?

In the Roman Catholic Church, a basilica is a designation for an important church building. A basilica is designated by the Pope to buildings that carry special spiritual, historical, and architectural significance. Once a basilica — always a basilica. This is a Papal Basilica, and it has a Papal throne. Every Pope since 1230 has visited here, except John Paul I of course. The throne is there for viewing, but I was not allowed to go sit in it.

There is also a monestary attached to this Basilica where the Order of Franciscan Friars is based. They are a humble group and you see them walking the ancient streets to this day.

Monastery of Franciscan Friars

The monastery attached to the Basilica.

St. Francis’ tomb is in the lower level and many make a pilgrimage to pray for perhaps a miracle. I prayed that he give our cat a brain.

tomb of St. Francis

Many people make the pilgrimage here and pray. Besides a brain for my cat, I prayed for world peace.

PAX

The garden in front of the Basilica contains our wishes and a nice way to close this post. PAX

My next post will still be in Assisi at a wonderful hotel/spa/wellness facility called San Crispino that treated us to a spectacular afternoon. Stay Tuned!

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4 Responses so far.

  1. As a catholic, St. Francis hols a place in my heart! Maybe I should write about visiting the church where his body lies! Ahh my grandmother will love this post!

  2. Dorreene says:

    Magical is a great word to describe the medieval villages of Italy. The sense of living history is amazing as you walk past ancient buildings. Thanks for taking me there.

  3. Richard LeGates says:

    Forest,

    Keep up the great work. Joanne and I have been following your blog faithfully since we met you and Mary Ann in Sharjah in 2010. This blog and the previous one hold special interest as we spent a sabbatical in Perugia in 1988. Easy to remember because my 24 year old daughter was six months old then.

    Hope to see you and Mary Ann sometime. You can and Mary Ann can present this e-mail for a free dinner on us in Oakland, California anytime. I realize this is a long shot, but you’ve been every place else and you accepted the invitation to the Indian wedding, right?

    After Sharjah we have made it to China many times, Vietnam, Thailand and this fall will get to Indonesia.

    Dick LeGates
    From Shanghai

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