The Christmas stage is is set for you even before you enter the Basilica di San Francesco for the annual Christmas concert: a life-size crib scene – set in the Middle Ages – fans out on the lawn before the entry.
And the number of police around hint that this is an important event, confirmed by the honor guard of carabinieri in the plumed hats of their dress uniform flanking the entryway. The thirty-first annual St. Francis Basilica Christmas concert – aired at lunchtime on national television on December 25th and taped the week before Christmas – always includes among the guests (strictly by invitation only), members of the Italian Parliament – and perhaps other world leaders. This year, Nobel Peace Prize-winner, Juan Manuel Santos), President of Columbia offered his message of world peace to open the festivities. Pietro Grasso, President of the Italian Senate, then spoke on behalf of the Italian people.
Enjoy a bit of Assisi’s Christmas concert…
Pino and I were seated in the back and knew Grasso was about to enter as we saw all the various branches of polizia line up at attention at the door. Pino glanced up briefly and then went back to reading the program.
The varied program – ranging from Bach to Tchaikovsky to Duke Ellington to Alessandro Corelli to traditional carols – suffused the resplendent frescoed Gothic Basilica with musical glory.
A highlight for me? Listening to a Mozart adagio played by 16-year old Chinese violin prodigy, Ziyu He….while gazing up at the late 13th- c frescoed vault, sublimely restored following the September 26 1997 earthquake. A veritable sensory overload.
Leaving the Basilica, we walked under the Giotto fresco near the exit depicting the first “living crib scene,” created by San Franceco in Greccio in 1223. As the Nativity scene was born with San Francesco, what better place to gloriously celebrate Christmas than in his Basilica?
(Note: how were we lucky enough to have invitations to the Christmas concert? Pino had restored the Franciscan Press Office – and so, a “grazie” to him…)
Read more on earthquake restoration in Assisi – and not only
Read about another sublime Christmas concert
Read all about the Assisi restoration here
Read about the celebration of the “living Nativity” scene throughout Umbria at Christmastime
Read about Orvieto Christmas season music: jazz!
Read about Christmas simplicity in Assisi
Read about the Italian Epiphany tradition
Read about an astounding Naples Christmas tradition
Read about an Assisi Christmas tree of solidarity
Read about Assisi rooftop art – and Christmas traditions