Assisi

We arrived at Assisi late in the afternoon. We didn’t really stay long. I wish we had. There was so much to see.

We started at the Basilica di Santa Chiara, patroness of television. Why? Our guide said Silvio Berlusconi had something to do with it, something about his owning a few TV stations. A grain of salt, of course. The basilica contains the mortal remains of St. Clare of Assisi, a few pieces of her clothing, and what few earthly possessions she left behind. We were not allowed to take pictures once again. When her remains were discovered in 1850, her skeleton was found intact. She now lies in repose in the crypt, the exposed portions of her body (face, hands, feet) encased in a layer of wax. She is dressed in the habit of her order, the Poor Clares. Also, the structures of Assisi are pink and white stone from nearby Mount Subasio.

Noticeable in the photos are iron braces on the walls, a preventive measure since the earthquake of 1997. Cables were threaded through the walls of the historic buildings and fastened with braces on both ends to hold them in place. They are very noticeable on the bell tower of Santa Maria Maggiore, the church within the Poor Clares’ cloister.

We walked up the city toward the home of Francis’ parents, and the location of the scene where they young Francis renounced his heritage and family in favor of Lady Poverty. Then we came to the Piazza del Comune, where stands a church that was once a temple to Minerva. Its interior has since been renovated. There is a painting of the death of St. Joseph, husband of Mary, and a statue of St. Rita of Cascia, and one of St. Anthony of Padua.

We saw from afar a few other imposing structures. I can’t identify them all from the map I have. So lest I fail to identify these landmarks properly, I leave them unidentified. Perhaps you can google them to get a more accurate identification.

The next part of the Assisi visit was the Basilica di San Francesco. Just before the entrance to the basilica is a sculpture of Francis on a horse, looking somewhat like Don Quixote but without the windmills. The hedge spells the word “PAX.” The upper church contains frescoes from the life of St. Francis. Portions of the walls and ceiling were damaged by the 1997 earthquake. Some of the mosaics cannot be restored, some obscure Italian law preventing the creation of “copies.” We were not allowed to take pictures anywhere inside the basilica.

The crypt contains the remains of St. Francis and some of his closest companions. Like the remains of St. Clare, those of St. Francis went missing for many centuries. His was found in 1818 and entombed beneath the basilica.

When I got home, I googled the film “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.” Truly inspiring. It takes a great soul to do what Francis did. Yet we are all called to greatness, each in a unique way. What does God ask of you? Would you receive his will cheerfully if it is made known to you?

The last place we visited was the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli where the church that St. Francis rebuilt, the Porziuncola, now stands.

Along the way, I took photos of inscriptions, markers, and street shrines. It gives a feeling that Assisi is surrounded, enveloped, enfolded in the lives of its saints, women and men of flesh and blood who walked these streets, and gave witness to a love greater than themselves. Never before, and never again. Until when? Until the Holy Spirit sends us prophets for our day and age. And they could already be here. God is preparing us for the right moment.

The big fat black horse sculpture in the Piazza de Comune is from a collection of art by an artist named Botero, who has an ongoing exhibit in the city.

Some of the last photos is of a plaque commemorating the Day of Prayer for Peace started by Pope John Paul II in Assisi in 1986.

St. Clare preserved in the crypt of the Basilica di Santa Chiara, Assisi.

The body of St. Francis entombed in the crypt of the Basilica di San Francesco, Assisi.