Assisi’s Many Hidden Wonders
Assisians are excited about the new Pope, who has taken the name of San Francesco, patron saint of Itay – and will be here for la Festa di San Francesco on October 4, 2013! Assisi hotels now selling out and I am excited about the special tour I am offering on that day. Will we see the Pope? Hope so!
He’ll be blessing the crowds from the Papal loggia on the facade of the wondrous Basilica di San Francesco: a three-level masterpiece housing 10,000 square meters of the greatest frescoes in the world of the late 13th-century and early 14th-century. As a thirteenth-century visitor wrote “No more stunning monument to the Lord has yet been built.” That statement still holds. (I’ve been sharing the wonders of the Basilica since I passed the rigorous Umbrian guide exams in 1997 – and the treasures still astound me ever time I enter).
The Basilica di San Francesco is the greatest art museum in Italy between Rome and Florence – but above all, it is a reliquary church built to house the body of San Francesco who died October 3, 1226 (but after sunset – and so his feast is on the 4th).
And may be surprised to learn that Francesco is NOT the patron saint of Assisi: that honor goes to San Rufino, 3rd- c. Christian bishop and martyr, buried on the site of the Cathedral di San Rufino, 12th-c Romanesque wonder. San Francesco and St. Clare (eleven years younger than Francesco and a follower of his message of poverty, simplicity) were baptized in the cathedral – and so, all the children of Assisi are baptized there.
As you stroll through the charming medieval backstreets of Assisi – perhaps heading from the Cathedral of San Rufino to the Basilica of St. Clare – do notice the “pax et bonum” tiles over the doors of many a home. “Peace and good,” San Francesco greeted the crowds as he preached in the early 13th-century. As you walk the town, you’ll have to keep your eyes up to catch all the tiles – and not only: Roman and medieval tidbits, over eighty outdoor frescoes, and countless shrines (each with a story) embellish this “crown jewel” of all the medieval hill towns.
Roman monuments entice as well – a grandiose temple, the amphitheater area, a tomb. Is one day enough? Perhaps not: after all, the three-level Basilica di San Francesco is not only a treasure of medieval art and the burial place os St. Francis: the fresco restoration following the 1997 earthquake is one of the greatest fresco restoration projects in this country. (And you have to know where to look to view the “miracles”)
More to Assisi? Well, yes….the 14th-c medieval fortress, the 15th-c monastery ( on Mt. Subasio where Francesco once withdrew to the caves for prayer and meditation), San Damiano – outside the walls – where the Crucifix is said to have spoken to Francesco, San Pietro (11th c and Assisi’s oldest church). And then there is the suburban area of Santa Maria degli Angeli spreading out around the 16th-century Basilica of the same name, built over the place where San Francesco died.
And Assisi is not only art, history, stupendous monuments: artists and artisans of the present enrich our town. Textiles, hand-bound books, olive wood, etchings, watercolors, maiolica entice as you wander. Restaurants and small trattorie offer the best in local cuisine.
How much time do you need in Assisi? Over thirty-five years has not been enough for me
Read more about Assisi, Francesco and “Pax et Bonum”
Read about Assisi’s October celebration of St. Francis
Read about a November Assisi food festival
Read about a December event in Assisi
Click here for news on Christmas in Assisi
Read about Eastertime in the Assisi area
Find out why Good Friday in Assisi is not to be missed
Read about – and see! – the astounding May medieval festival in Assisi, Calendimaggio
Read about Corpus Cristi festivities in Assisi
Read about Calendimaggio preparations, usually with Gina…