Packing for Assisi
My group only went for a day trip to Assisi, so all I needed was my backpack and a money belt. Comfortable shoes are a must since you'll likely be walking and there are a lot of hills. Light clothes if you're going in the summer. Also, remember that you have to cover your knees and shoulders when entering a church, so bring something you can throw on before going in (such as a button-down shirt and wrap skirt). Sunscreen is a must in the summer - the sun is extremely hot. Also, band-aids and other things for blisters since you might get some on your feet from walking.
City Wall Gate
Walking the streets on our way to the Church of St Francis we took the wrong turn and came across one of the old entry gates to the town. It was an imposing structure and has lasted the centuries. It is interesting to see the buildings leading to the gate, all looked to be apartments.
The Priors' Palace
The left side of the Piazza del Comune is closed by the Priors' Palace from 14th century, which nowadays houses the town council offices, and the Municipal Picture Gallery, containing frescoes by the Byzantine, Umbrian and Siennese school, as well as those painted by the followers of Giotto, paintings by Nelli, Alunno and Tiberio d'Assisi.
In the Steps of Saint Francis
Although one can find references to the area of the Porziuncola in the documents of the city of Assisi dating back to more or less the year one thousand, it is only with the life of Saint Francesco that the place acquires its precise identity, being a religious centre for the Order of the "Frati Minori" (Minor Friars) as well as an important destination for the pilgrims.
After having abandoned the wealth of his family Saint Francesco found asylum in this old chapel, now located inside the large Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. He restored it and obtained it as a gift from the Benedictines. In this place, on March 28th 1211, Chiara di Favarone di Offreduccio (Saint Clare) began her monastic life, founding then the Order of the Clarisse (Poor Clares) and Saint Francesco obtained from Jesus during a dream the indulgence of the Forgiveness. Already before the building of the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the visitors coming to the Porziuncola were so numerous, even estimated to 100000 in 1582, that it was becoming necessary to have new structures to welcome them. For example, in 1450 Cosimo dei Medici absolutely wants the building of the "fontain of the 26 cinnamons" that nowadays is located along the side of the basilica.
The structure of the Portiuncola is a copy of the typical organization of the Benedictine structures in the Umbrian roman style; the church, made of squared rocks, has remained untouched at the exception of the small belfry - tabernacle of gothic inspiration, of a painted door dating back to the end of 400 and of the façade almost completely recovered with frescos by Federico Overbek in 1830. The interventions of restoration in del 1998 have prevented ulterior degradation of the chapel and managed to retrieve painted materials of the great politico behind the altar painted in 1393 by Ilario da Viterbo, as well as some rests of the frescoes of the Crucifixion in the apsidal part around 1485 Christ by the Perugino.
"The Portiuncola Chapel"
This is where in 1208, while attending Mass in the Chapel, Francis received his mandate for his own vocation.
What has made the Portiuncola most famous, is the Indulgence associated with its name - the famous "Pardon of Assisi" which Francis obtained from Christ and which was confirmed by Pope Honorius III in 1216.
Toward the end of 1226, Francis requested to be carried to the Portinuncola, that he might die there. Here, indeed, he died in the small infirmary of the humble convent, now the chapel of the Transitus.
It was here he began his religous life and here that he brought it to an end.
According to the tradition, during a night of 1216, San Francesco received the visit during a prayer inside the Portiuncola from the Christ and of the Saint Mother. Saint Francis asked them to grant to each person who had repented, confessed, and visited this church that all the faults should be completely forgiven.
From this year on, after receiving the authorization directly from the Pontificate Onorio III, on August 2nd takes place in Santa Maria degli Angeli the Celebration of the Pardon. The catholic Catechism establishes nowadays that, in order to receive the plenary indulgence for oneself or a dead person, it is necessary to make a sacramental confession in order to be in the Pardon of the Christ during the week preceding or following August 2nd, to participate to the Mass and to the Eucharistic Communion, to visit the Porziuncola with the profession of faith of the Credo, the reading of "Our Father", of a prayer dedicated to the Pontificate and a prayer for the Pope himself.
"San Damiano - St Clare and the Poor Clares"
We walked a mile and a half down to San Damiano from Upper Assisi. In this countryside oratory, just outside the walls of the village, during the summer of 1205, St. Francis feels the Crucifix, (kept in the chapel of the same name of the church of St. Clare), and heard Christ exhort him to restore his church - Francis took this literally and set about the task of restoring the church. In the cave under the edifice, the Saint hid himself from his father who was obstructing his monastic choice. Here St. Clare spent her monastic experience from 1212 Christ and founded the Order St. Clare. In the "small hut of linens in a corner of the house" San Francesco wrote the first draft of the Canticle of the Creatures, and in the dormitory of San Damiano, Santa Chiara died on August 11th of 1253 just two days after the visit of Pope Innocent IV. What most moving here is the silence, and the sense of peace that people say they feel in going from the village to this church. San Damiano is a little bit more than one kilometre away from the Basilica of San Francesco, but, maybe for the olive fields around it, or maybe because it is visited more by pilgrims praying than from simple tourists, the distance seems to be a lot longer. The façade of the church is characterized by a portico that allows the access on the right side to the chapel of San Girolamo where there are frescoes of Tiberio of Assisi dating back from 1517 and 1522. The internal part, with one nave and apse decorated with frescoes from the 14th century, has a wooden choir from the first years of the 16th century and a copy of the original Crucifix. Inside the convent are present a Crucifixion of Pier Antonio Mezzastris from 1482, in the refectory some frescoes of Dono Doni and, in the cloister, the works of Eusebio da San Giorgio from 1507 representing "San Francesco receiving the stigmata" and "the annunciation".
"Chapel of the Transit"
The Chapel of the Transit is now located of the right part of the apse of the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, not far away from the church of the Portiuncola.
The small structure, in fact, was nothing else than the first-aid room of the group of huts where San Francesco had welcome the first group of friars. The Saint died in this place on October 3rd 1226, after he had composed the last verses of the Canticle of the Creatures, the ones dedicated to "sora morte", and where he was clearly asking to be deposited on the bare land. On the left wall of the chapel there is still the wooden door of 1200 and on the altar, deposited in a reliquary, the track used by the Saint. The walls have been covered by frescoes around 1520 by Giovanni Spagna with Franciscan saints depicted and of the first minor friars. The statue of San Francesco holding in his hand the Evangel and the Cross in white glazed terracotta was done around 1490 by Andrea della Robbia.
"From the life of Saint Francis"
If you are in Assisi out of admiration for St Francis and the life he led, here are places and items you will want to see.
This first is a robe he wore and can be seen in the Basilica Museum.
"Rule of the Franciscan Order from Museum"
From the Museum - the Rule of the Franciscan Order
"Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi"
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen