Assisi is perhaps best known as being the birthplace of St. Francis, although this Italian town is also a well-preserved medieval hill town. Every year, thousands of pilgrims and tourists descend on the small town of about 3,000 to enjoy its religious and artistic treasures. The area was settled as long ago as 1,000 BC and later taken over by the Romans; today Roman remains can be seen throughout the town. Assisi is also well-known for its Calendimaggio, or spring celebration, which takes place every May and features parades, games, archery displays and other events, all with an authentic medieval theme.
Undoubtedly, the town’s biggest attraction is the legacy of St. Francis, who was born in Assisi in 1182. He went on to found the Franciscan order in the town in 1208 and today is generally one of the most revered religious figures of all time. Most pilgrims and visitors make straight for the Basilica of St Francis, which dominates the town and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. The huge church is actually two churches – the Upper and Lower Churches – and both are richly decorated with frescoes by artists from medieval times and later, including Giotto.
The town is also dominated by two castles, and the larger of the two, Rocca Maggiore was constructed during the 14th century and intended to intimidate the inhabitants. The smaller castle is largely a ruin and dates back to Roman times. In addition, there are several other churches in Assisi that should not be missed. The Basilica of St. Clare features huge buttresses and a simple Gothic interior, while the Cathedral of San Rufimo contains the font in which St. Francis was baptized, as well as decorative friezes featuring lions and griffins. In addition to the various Roman remains scattered around the town, there is also a small but fascinating museum of Roman artifacts.
Because of its associations with the famous figure of St. Francis, Assisi can be extremely crowded during much of the year, unless you visit between January and March. However, this delightful and historic town is one of the most visited places in Italy, along with the much larger cities of Rome, Florence and Venice. Whether you visit for the architecture, history or art, or during one of the town’s lively festivals, you can be assured of a memorable visit.
- The Mystic Prophet Francis of Assisi (epages.wordpress.com)
- 11/25: Florence and More (unitedbyfaith.wordpress.com)
- Inspirations & A Blog Award (berealbehappy.wordpress.com)