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Assisi is a delightful medieval town, with its flower-hung streets, lovely views over the Umbrian countryside and fountain-splashed piazzas is famous for a single event – the birth of Francis, the most revered Saint in Italy. The man himself was one of the most extraordinary figures the Italian church has ever produced. He had a privileged upbringing, leading a very unchristian lifestyle, but whilst imprisoned, God appeared to him. After release, he renounced his inheritance, living the life of a beggar, and mixed with lepers, but ultimately found his vocation founding the order of monks which bears his name, the Franciscans. Two years after his death, the basilica was built, financed by donations from all over Europe creating one of the most beautiful shrines in the Christian world adorned by arguably its greatest art collection outside an actual gallery. The building today is actually two churches, one on top of the other with St. Francis himself lying under the floor in the crypt. The mood inside is most respectful, being in tune with Franciscan principles - silence being the rule, quite plain around the tomb itself and accompanied by brown robed monks.



Papal Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels


The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Saint Mary of the Angels) is a church situated in the plain at the foot of the hill of Assisi, in the frazione (territorial subdivision of a comune) of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

The basilica was constructed in the Mannerist style between 1569 and 1679 enclosing the 9th century little church, the Porziuncola, the most sacred place for the Franciscans. It was here that the young Francis of Assisi understood his vocation and renounced the world in order to live in poverty among the poor, and thus started the Franciscan movement.




The Porziuncla


One night in 1216 St. Francis was immersed in prayer near the Portiuncla when a bright light shone out from the little church and he saw Christ and His Holy Mother above the altar. They asked him what he wanted for the salvation of souls and he replied immediately: "that all those who repent and confess their sins and visit this church may obtain an indulgence. They granted him his wish with the proviso that he first ask the Pope to grant his wish. Francis immediately presented himself before Pope Honorius III who listened with attention and gave his approval. He returned full of joy on 2nd August 1216 and announced to the people assembled at the Portiuncla, "My brothers and sisters, I want to send you all to Paradise!"









The temple of Minerva in Piazza del Comune



This is a classic Roman temple, built in white marble on a thick base, now below ground level. The six columns of the facade support a triangular tympanum; a rectangular room inside, called the naos, housed the statue of the deity.

As was often the case, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the temple was converted into a church, still known today as Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. It belonged to the Benedictine monks, who used it for workshops and housing, adding a little church inside, which was subsequently used as the seat of the local government and then as a prison. Finally, in the 16th century, it was turned back into the church you can see today. In Roman times, Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, while Mary, the mother of Christ, represents Christian wisdom, making this place of worship an impressive link between paganism and Christianity!





Basilica di San Francesco



Tomb of St Francis in the lower church





Claire, Sue, Mick and Julie