The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi is the mother church of Roman Catholic Franciscan Order, an important place of pilgrimage, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. Here, Saint Francis, one of the most venerated religious figures of the Catholic Church, is buried.
The Basilica of Saint Francis is composed, actually, from two churches. The Lower Church was built between 1228 and 1230, only 4 years after the saint’s death, and the Upper Church was built between 1230 and 1253.
The Sacro Convento friary, with its imposing walls supported by 53 arches and powerful buttresses, was built between the 12th and the 15th century with stone from the near Mount Subasio. An important part of the friary was built under the reign of Pope Sixtus IV, a Franciscan, near the end of the 15th century.
A crypt was dug in 1818, for the tomb of Saint Francis. Now, the remains of the saint are kept in a stone urn in the Lower Church.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
You can enter the Lower Church through a wonderful portico with two arches and three rose windows. Inside, you can find invaluable paintings by Giotto (the Chapel of Mary Magdalene, eight childhood Stories of Christ), Cimabue (the fresco in the right transept), Simone Martini (Stories of St. Martin) and Pietro Lorenzetti (Histories of the Passion of Christ and the famous Madonna dei Tramonti). Here, you can also find beautiful glass windows by Giovanni di Bonino and Puccio Capanna.
The Upper Church has a simple façade, embellished by a Gothic portal and a beautiful rose window. The interior is built in gothic style, lit by large windows. Here, you can find Giotto’s frescos illustrating the life of the Saint Francis, and also works by Cimabue, Cavallini, Torriti.
The basilica complex includes a bell tower built in 1239. The monastery also houses a remarkable Treasury with rare manuscripts, paintings, tapestries and sacred furnishings.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Assisi train station, to the Basilica, there are about 3 kilometers. If it is nice outside, you can walk, or, if you are not in the mood for walking, you can take the bus, for a 10 minutes trip.