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Assisi - The Basilica and Town

St Francis' Day - October 4th


LINK to a good lunch (and overnight) spot, and the best place to park

LINK to the Eremo and Porziuncola Chapel

LINK to Chronology Entry for San Francesco (1182-1226)





A 2007 Autumn photo of Assisi from distant Perugia


The Basilica and town in Spring


... and in Winter, in various colour modes / moods!





The photo above shows the magnificent setting of the Basilica di San Francesco.  At the other end of the little town (below) you can see (from the right) the Basilica di Santa Chiara,  the Duomo (San Ruffino) and the tower next to the 100s Roman Tempio di Minerva in the Piazza del Comune.










The lower church is covered with frescos by luminaries like Giotto, Simone Martini, and Pietro Lorenzetti.  Sadly they are difficult to see because the lighting is so poor.  This Scala book makes amends for this.  We got our copy at the interesting Franciscan bookshop (not to be confused with the next door tourist momento shop)  which is in the piazza in front of  Santa Maria degli Angeli down the hill.






Saint Francis lived from 1182 to 1226.  The first (lower) Basilica was built between 1228 and 1253 and frescoed by Simone Martini, P Lorenzetti et al.  Francis' remains were moved into a secret location there in 1230, lest they be stolen by the Perugians.  They were so well hidden that it took a 52 day search in 1818 to locate them.  On top of the lower Basilica is an upper Basilica which was completed in the second half of the twelve hundreds and frescoed mainly by Cimabue and Giotto.  A larger than life project for a larger than life person, and one totally out of keeping with what he stood for and wanted - which was to be buried in the Criminals' Cemetery at Colle d'Inferno.


Sadly the design of the lighting in the interestingly frescoed lower church is dreadful, and it is nowadays very difficult to pick a time where you can be alone in front of the Saint's dramatic sub lower church tomb, but despite all this it's still a special place, as is the golden stoned town.







The Renaissance (fourteen hundreds) porch to the lower Basilica).


A prosperous but cross looking medieval bird keeps a watchful eye on visitors to the upper basilica.





The magnificent rose window in the upper Basilica di San Francesco, which is guarded by the four evangelists' symbols.  Assisi is blessed with two other magnificent rose windows - in the Duomo (upper town centre) and the Basilica di Santa Chiara (other end of town).  Many large Italian rose windows are "external" in the sense of having magnificent stonework which is best viewed from the outside (see also the wonderful wagon wheel rosoni of Puglia), and no (narrative) stained glass.  Some (as in Spain) are glazed with sheets of alabaster.  The Italians also did oculus windows which were circular windows filled with narrative stained glass, but had little or no stone tracery (for example Duccio's oculus for the Siena Duomo or the many oculi in the Duomo in Florence which no-one ever sees).  Links to Paradoxplace Rose Windows' Pages.




Piazza del Comune




Tempio di Minerva - A Roman sanctuary built in the early first millennium, but not for Minerva.  And inside it's a solid boring baroque church.



Rose window and more weathered evangelists' signs in the facade of the Duomo - San Ruffino - built in Umbrian Romanesque style in the early 12 hundreds.




You never know what you are going to find in Italy .... this grotesque style doodling adorns the barrel vaulted ceiling of a  passageway opposite the Tempio.






Basilica di Santa Chiara (St Clare), soul mate (spiritual) of Francis, with another brilliant rose window. 


To see the Assisi town that many people never get to, drive round to the Porta Nuova car park and have the escalator do the hard work of taking you up the hill, from where it's an easy walk to Santa Chiara, the Duomo (San Ruffino), and the attractive Piazza del Comune (and a rather longer one to the Basilica). 




Santa Chiara Santa Maria Maggiore


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