Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Pilgrim's Journey to Assisi

After the intense three days that was the chocolate festival, I still had one day in Perugia. What to do ??

Well....Assisi is only 20 minutes down the train line so I decided to pop down to check it out.

Assisi is another typical Umbrian hillside town, with the older part of the city dominating the hillside & the urban sprawl on the plains. In the case of Assisi, the hill is dominated by the the Bascillica of St. Francis.

The Bascillica is actually two churches...a lower & upper church. Entering from the lower church, you are greeted by a rather stern looking Franciscan monk, who looks you up & down to make sure you're dressed appropriately. He will also tell you, via sign language, to keep quiet in the church & no photos.

As I watched our 'friendly' Franciscan goosestep down the Piazza (singing 'Deutchland, Deutchland uber Alles'.......kidding !!!!), I entered the church.

As with alot of the churches here in Italy, it is a dark, imposing place with frescos covering every spare wall space: depicting scenes from the bible & scences about the life of St. Francis. Down a set of stairs to the left, is the tomb of St. Francis & that of five of his closest followers. The tomb seems to be the focal point of the poeple coming here. They crowd in the small area to pray & reflect.

Back up in the lower church & down a set of stairs to the right is the relics hall....containing items of St. Francis. Unlike other churches I've been to that display 'bits' of the Saint (like the tongue of St. Anthony in the Cathedral of Padova), here, all you could see are things like his clothes, a letter signed by him, leather used to cover his stigmatas, etc...

The Upper Church is much bigger & a lot lighter. The walls are covered by frescoes by the great Giotto. It was this church that suffered the most damage during a devestating earthquake in 1997. Part of the roof collapsed & some of the frescoes were lost....they are still trying to restore them.

In both churches, you have these guys in uniform, wandering around with microphones. Every five or so minutes, they will talk into the microphone to say "Silenzio !!" or "No Photos !!". People who have been to the Sistine Chapel will know what I mean.

In-between the lower & upper churches, you have a gift shop doing a roaring trade in all sorts of tacky St. Francis memorabilia.

Well...that's Assisi. Not much, I know, but at least I can say I've been there now.

The next posting will be about my adventures in Milan.

Until then...take care.



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