Assisi

Assisi is a city of Italy in the province of Perugia in the Umbria region, on the western flank of Monte Subasio.

It was the birthplace of St. Francis, who founded the Franciscanreligious order in the city in 1208, and St. Clare (Chiara d'Offreducci), the founder of the Poor Sisters, which later became the Order of Poor Clares after her death. The 19th-century Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was also born in Assisi.

Main sights

UNESCO collectively designated the Franciscan structures of Assisi as a World Heritage Site in 2000.

Churches:
  • The Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi (St. Francis). The Franciscan monastery, il Sacro Convento, and the lower and upper church (Italian: Basilica inferiore and Basilica superiore) of St Francis were begun immediately after his canonization in 1228, and completed in 1253. The lower church has frescoes by the late-medieval artists Cimabue and Giotto; the upper church houses frescoes of scenes in the life of St. Francis previously ascribed to Giotto, but now thought to be by artists of the circle of Pietro Cavallini from Rome. The Basilica was badly damaged by an earthquake on 26 September 1997, during which part of the vault collapsed, killing four people inside the church and carrying with it a fresco by Cimabue. The edifice was closed for two years for restoration.
  • Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary the Greater), the earliest extant church in Assisi.
  • The Cathedral of San Rufino (St. Rufinus), with a Romanesque fašade with three rose windows and a 16th-century interior; part of it is built on a Roman cistern.
  • Basilica of Santa Chiara (St. Clare) with its massive lateral buttresses, rose window, and simple Gothic interior, begun in 1257, contains the tomb of the namesake saint and 13th-century frescoes and paintings.
  • Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (St. Mary of the Angels), which houses the Porziuncola. (The Church in the Church, as I like to call it)
  • Chiesa Nuova, built over the presumed parental home of St. Francis
  • Santo Stefano, one of the oldest churches of Assisi.
  • Eremo delle Carceri, a small monastery with church at a canyon above the town, where St. Francis retreated and preached to birds
  • Church of San Pietro (St. Peter), built by the Benedictines in the 10th century and rebuilt in the 13th century. It has a rectangular fašade with three rose windows; the Gothic chapel of the Holy Sacrament houses a triptych by Matteo di Gualdo.
Other landmarks The town is dominated by two medieval castles. The larger, called Rocca Maggiore, is a massive presence meant to intimidate the people of the town: it was built by Cardinal Albornoz (1367) and expanded by popes Pius II (polygonal tower, 1458) and Paul III (the cylindrical bastion near the entrance, 1535-1538). The smaller of the two was built in Roman era: it has been only partially reserved, a small portion and three towers being open to the public. Other sights include:
  • the Roman amphitheater, built in the early 1st century AD. Its elliptical plan is identifiable through the from the medieval houses built around it, and from an arch of travertine cunei. The arena now houses a garden.
  • the Piazza del Comune ("Communal Square"), with the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo (mid-13th century, featuring a series of merlons added in 1927), the adjoining Torre del Popolo ("People's Tower", 1305) the Palazzo dei Priori ("Palace of the Priors", 1275-1493). The fountains with three lions in the southern side dates from the 16th century.
  • The Temple of Minerva, also facing the Piazza del Comune
  • The abbey of St. Benedict, founded in the 10th century on the Monte Subasio. Remains include the crypt (late 11th century), the apse and the external walls.

The Earthquake, 1997

On the morning of September 26, 1997, two earthquakes hit Umbria of Italy in rapid succession, registering 5.5 and 6.1 respectively on the Richter Scale. There was widespread devastation and many ancient buildings were destroyed or damaged. While a group of specialists and friars were inspecting the damage to the Basilica of St. Francis, an aftershock shook the building, causing the collapse of the vault. Two Franciscan friars who were among the group and two of the specialists were killed. Much of the cycle of frescoes of the life of St. Francis by Giotto in the Upper Church of the Basilica were destroyed in the collapse. The church was closed for two years for restoration.

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