A new destination along the Italian Peninsula awaits our arrival. We departed from Rome early this morning for a 2 hour bus ride to the medieval town of Assisi. There are 20 different regions in Italy and Umbria is the region known as Assisi. The morning was chilly and the visibility was low. Overcast and dense fog shielded the mountainous regions for long distances. The sun did its best to peek through at moments, but did not last very long. At this point in our travels, we are making our way up the Italian peninsula. We began in Rome where the weather was rainy and humid, and now in Assisi the weather is quite cold and requires us to bundle up.
There is so much history associated with the town of Assisi due to a contemporary by the name of St. Francis. In the 13th century after the death of St. Francis, the people of Assisi decided to honor him and his message by building a basilica. St. Francis was the first individual to introduce the idea of depicting a nativity scene and the birth of Jesus Christ rather than preaching to commoners. He was very humble and wanted to live amongst the commoners to better understand life. Interesting point is that the only pope to have the name Francis is the current pope of Italy. The persona of the current pope and his sense of humility and compassion for the common people displays the nature of St. Francis during his time.
Upon entrance to the Basilica of St. Francis we see the first division of the venue which is the upper church. This part of the basilica depicts paintings by Giotto that are arranged in episodes that display the life of St. Francesco. The paintings have such emotion and movement which is conveyed in the demeanor of the subjects. Then we move on to the middle church which is located beneath the upper church and has paintings created by Giotto’s students/followers. However, the most magnificent part of the Basilica of St. Francis is the crypt on the 3rd level where the tomb of St. Francis is house. This portion of the church is used for prayers and is so quiet. Standing in front of St. Francis’s tomb today made me so emotional and humbled to be able to be in the presence of such an important individual in history.
Quick Facts: The Basilica of St. Francis began construction immediately after the death of St. Francis in 1228. The church took 7 years to build and was largely due to the help of volunteers.
Message: St. Francis had a message of depicting life by what we can see rather than the unseen. He had a message of being happy and enjoying reality by recreating it through artistic expression.
Our quick stop through the town of Assisi ended after touring the church. We are now beginning a new journey on our study abroad trip in the city of Florence. I hope to share my experiences in this new city for the next 3 days.