Inspired by Saint Francis
The village of Assisi sits high on a hill in Umbria, with a dominating view of the valley below and the many olive tree goves.
Assisi not only boasts being the place of the birth and death of Saint Francis, but is also home to an ancient Roman Medieval church built in the 1st Century BC, a fortress castle dating back to approximately 1173, and the oldest Gothic church (The Basilica) in Italy.
The Life of Saint Franics
This small chapel below, called The Stall, is where Francis was born. When you walk into The Stall you can feel the spiritual energy literally oozing out of the walls and surrounding you. This small room seems very much in keeping with the life of Saint Francis and his dedication to God and poverty.
St. Francis abandoned a life of luxury for a life devoted to Christianity after reportedly hearing the voice of God in the church of San Damiano, was commanded to rebuild the Christian church and live in poverty.
After his epiphany at the church, Francis experienced another defining moment in his life.
In order to raise money to rebuild the Christian church, he sold a bolt of cloth from his father's shop, along with his horse. His father became furious upon learning of his son's actions and subsequently dragged Francis before the local bishop.
The bishop told Francis to return his father's money, to which his reaction was extraordinary: He stripped off his clothes, and along with them, returned the money back to his father, declaring that God was now the only father he recognized.
This event is credited as Francis' final conversion, and there is no indication that Francis and his father ever spoke again thereafter. The bishop gave Francis a rough tunic, and dressed in these new humble clothes, Francis left Assisi.
Unluckily for him, the first people he met on the road were a group of dangerous thieves, who beat him badly. Despite his wounds, Francis was elated. From now on, he would live according to the Gospel.
Francis' embrace of Christ-like poverty was a radical notion at the time. The Christian church was tremendously rich, much like the people heading it, which concerned Francis and many others, who felt that the long-held apostolic ideals had eroded.
Francis set out on a mission to restore Jesus Christ's own, original values to the now-decadent church. With his incredible charisma, he drew thousands of followers to him. They listened to Francis' sermons and joined in his way of life; his followers became known as Franciscan friars.
St Franicis is also the patron saint of animals and the environment.
The Village of Assisi Today
The Basilica of Saint Francis
The Papal Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, built in 1228, after Saint Francis was cannonised, is one of the oldest Gothic churchs in Italy.
The Basilica is characterised by two different and complementary parts, the Lower Church and the Upper Church.
The Upper Church is filled with wonderful frescoes by various artists including Simone Martini, Cesare Sermei, Dono Giotto and his school.
In the Lower Basilica is the crypt of Saint Francis, although his remains had been hidden until 1818 by Brother Elias to prevent the spread of his relics in medieval Europe.
The Temple of Minerva
A well preserved medieval temple originally built in the First Century BC by the Romans. Evidence shows that it is believed to have been dedicated to the Demi-God Hercules, and the Goddess Minerva.
The six splendid Corinthian columns and the entire façade are still intact after nearly 2025 years. The pilgrim climbs the steps to the entrance and is deeply moved.
Even the lateral walls of the building are well preserved, but they are only visible from the outside.
The precise date is not known, but probably in the second half of the sixth century, the Benedictine monks restored the temple and made use of it.
They divided the cellar into two floors, creating living rooms in the upper part and the church of “San Donato” in the lower part. Even the pronao was divided into two floors. It became a comfortable and secure home!
Rocca Maggiore Castle
The largest castle in Assisi is known as Rocca Maggiore. It is an imposing bastion that looms over the hill town, intimidating potential invaders, and originally dates back to 1173.
It’s location above the town is a natural defensive position. The earliest records of the current castle date back to the year 1174 when a German feudal castle had been erected in the town.
The future Emperor Frederick II (Federico II) of Swabia had spent several years during his childhood here under the care of the Conrad of Urslingen.
He had been baptized in Assisi’s cathedral in the year 1197, not too long after Saints Francis and Claire were baptized from the same font.
In 1198, the people of Assisi had rebelled and reduced the Rocca Maggiore to ruins in Conrad’s absence.
In 1367, Cardinal Albornoz took the initiative to rebuild the castle using the western part of the outer walls and some of the inner fortifications of the original structure.
By 1458, the Lord of Assisi erected the twelve sided tower and the curtain wall that connects the castle to Assisi.
The castle as seen today is mainly the work of Cardinal Albornoz, with several later additions by Popes Pius II and Paul III.
Posted: Fri 09 Nov 2018