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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!