Today we visited Assisi, where Saint Francis and Saint Claire lived and worked in the 13th century. Most of Assisi is built on a hill and is full of narrow, winding streets and hills. It was truly a beautiful spot, and one day only scratches the surface of what this town has to offer. Assisi is about three hours north of Rome, so we also got to enjoy they Italian countryside on the way there. This is a view of Assisi and the surrounding countryside:
St. Francis was a worldly man from a rich family, and had a good life ahead of him when God appeared to him in a vision and gave him a new mission. God appeared to him and said, "Francis, rebuild my Church." The first church we visited in Assisi was the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. This basilica contains within it the original parish church that Francis rebuilt when he heard God's command. Eventually, Francis realized that God meant more than just the parish church and went on to reform the whole Church. In response, Francis founded a religious order recommitted to the counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The basilica also contains the site of Francis's death, and a garden of thornless roses. The legend is that one time Francis rolled in the rosh bushes as a penance when he was tempted to sin, and the roses out of sympathy dropped all their thorns. The church within the basilica:
Then we moved to the actual Basilica of St. Francis, where Francis is buried today. Before anything else, we celebrated mass at a side altar of the lower church. The first thing we did here was celebrate mass at a side altar of the lower church. This basilica contains three churches: the upper church, the lower church, and then below the lower church is a small crypt chapel where you can actually see and pray in front of Francis's tomb itself. In the crypt chapel the altar is in front of Francis's tomb, and the altars in both the upper and lower church are situated directly above Francis's tomb. The upper and lower churches are filled with frescoes that depict the life of Francis. Unfortunately, pictures weren't allowed inside any part of this basilica, so you'll have to visit it for yourself. Instead here are some shots of the exterior:
We stopped briefly at a church built over the sight where legend says that Francis lived with his family before his conversion. Since the family was rich, this church is in the center of town. This church contains a small room where supposedly Francis was locked by his father to try to dissuade him from answering his call from God. Here is the room:
Then we visited the Basilica of St. Claire. Claire was a young noblewoman who was impressed by Francis's work, so she gave up her rich lifestyle and joined him to found a counterpart female religious order. The highlights of this basilica are, of course, St. Claire's tomb, and the San Damiano Cross, the cross Francis in front of which Francis was praying when he heard the call from God to "Rebuild my Church." Same no-photo rule, so the exterior view:
After St. Claire's we had a bit of time to wander, so I climbed as high as time allowed in Assisi to see the view from below. I found some residential areas, where someone had a 10 ft yard, but it looked out on Assisi and the countryside below:
Then we enjoyed a wonderful meal, served one course at a time over about two and half hours before hitting the road back to Rome. Overall, a wonderful day!