In the heart of Italy is the lovely region of Umbria, and in the heart of that region is the town of Assisi – known the world over as the home of Saint Francis of Assisi. The famous brother was born to a wealthy life which he did enjoy for some time. Then, after hearing a powerful sermon in 1209, Saint Francis realized that he would use his life to spread the word while living a life of poverty.
Saint Francis of Assisi
In the early thirteenth century, Saint Francis traveled with other Franciscan bothers to nearby times to preach barefoot in their rough clothing. They were always jovial and uplifting, often singing and dancing and making a significant impact on the people they reached in their ministry.
During this time, Saint Francis lived with his brotherhood in a deserted house near Rivo Toro in Assisi. It was not until after his death that the impressive basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi was built. The basilica you visit today in Assisi consists of two portions – the Lower church and the Upper church as well as a crypt where the remains of Saint Francis are laid.
Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi
Originally designed by a follower of Saint Francis, the basilica was built over decades and blends both Gothic and Romanesque styles. Inside the church, the floor is laid out in a simple cruciform plan both upstairs and down.
The Upper Basilica has a well-lit, vaulted ceiling bordered with any number of intricate patterns. Both the ceiling and the walls are decorated inside the Upper church with the most famous frescoes in the lower part of the nave and near the entrance. All of the frescoes show various scenes in the life of Saint Francis to form a sort of biography.
The Lower Basilica is a giant crypt with many different vaults. As you enter the Lower church, you’ll pass through doors complete with large rose depictions. The two small windows on the sides of the door are called the eyes of the church thanks to their unique position. Again, scenes of the life of Saint Francis decorate the wooden doors. Inside the Lower church is a nave with the oldest fresco of the church and additional side chapels.
The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi is a cultural landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of the most impressive aspects of Umbria, but is by far not the only item of interest. Enjoy the richness of the countryside and feel the peace and joy that Saint Francis must have felt hundreds of years earlier.