Province of Perugia - Tourist Information I.A.T., Palazzo S. Nicholas, Piazza del No. 10 Tel 075-8138680. Town Hall: Piazza del Comune No. 1 Tel 075-81381 - Mandatory Consortium "Parco del Monte Subasio" Tel. 075/815 233.
Population: 28,143 (Assisani); square km area: 186,80, height above sea level: 424 m, distance from Perugia: KM19, 04; Tel. Area/Dial Code 075; Zip Code/Postal Code 06081; Train Station (FS Stazione di Assisi); Highway/Motorway: Autostrada del Sole (Florence-Rome), exit at Val di Chiana, Motorway to Perugia.
Hamlets: Armezzano, Capodacqua, Castelnuovo, Costa di Trex, Mora, Palazzo, Passaggio d'Assisi, Petrignano, Pieve San Nicolò, Porziano, Rivotorto, Rocca Sant'Angelo, San Gregorio, S.M. Degli Angeli, S.M. di Lignano, Sterpeto, Torchiagina, Tordandrea, Tordibetto, Viole.
Situated on a hill dominated by Mount Subasio, in a splendid position overlooking the Umbrian Valley, situated along the rivers of Chiascio, Topino and Tescio. Assisi draws its origins from a small village inhabited by the Umbrians stemming back from the Villanoviano Period, as shown by numerous remains found from that period in the surrounding territories. A city founded by the Umbrians, however, developed near the territories controlled by the Etruscans who influenced Assisi greatly. The city was under the Etruscan power until 295 BC, when, with the battle of Sentino, the Romans imposed their rule even in Central Italy, replacing the Etruscans.
The Roman period was a prosperous period for Assisi, where Asisium (as it was called by the Romans) raised to Municipium. It became an important economic and social center of the Roman Empire and which evidence of this can still be seen to this day. Evangelized by Rufino, a martyr in the third century, who was also the first Bishop of Assisi. With the collapse of the Roman Empire, Assisi couldn’t escape the dark age of Barbarian invasions and in 545 A.Ds it was ransacked by the Goths of Totila. Conquered by the Byzantines, Assisi passed under Lombard rule for a short period, up to the Xl century then becoming a free city and allowing the release of all the serfs who had taken refuge within its walls. After a period of war, in 1174 it was besieged and conquered by Frederick Barbarossa, which gave the investiture of the city to Duke Conrad of Lutzen, also known as Conrad of Urslingen. In 1177 Barbarossa stayed for some time in Assisi. A few years later, between September 1181 and February 1182 (the exact date is not known) Francis was born in Assisi, the son of Pietro di Bernardino and Madonna Pica. The future saint who, in his work, will mark the history of the place and of humanity. In 1198 the people of Assisi, tired of the injustices of the Duke of Lutzen, rebelled and expelled him from the city. Subsequently, the city came under the rule of the Church, under Perugia and later under the rule of tyrants such as: Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Montefeltro, Andrea Braccio Fortebraccio from Montone, finally passing under the rule of Francesco Sforza. Deeply marked by internal strife between two opposing factions: the Nepis (Porte de Sopra—Upper Entry Gate) and the Fiumi (Porte de Sotto—Lower Entry Gate). Assisi was then permanently assigned to the Church during the time of Paul III in the sixteenth century. In 1860, by unanimous vote, the city joined the Italian State.
Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), and Saint Clare (1193-1253)
WHAT TO SEE
Nowadays the visitor sees the view of Assisi from a distance as a series of churches, houses and steeples all amalgamated together, and which still surround the ancient medieval walls and are overlooked by the Rocca Maggiore, an ancient fortress, with its towers and imposing ramparts, which still appear as to protect the city. A place of pilgrimage in the Christian world, dominated by the figures of St. Francis and St. Clare, the city is a major artistic and cultural center, as well as a religious Mecca, where pilgrims and tourists every year come together from all parts of the world.
Walking through its streets paved in stone, like the walls of the houses, made of red and white stone from Mount Subasio, in an uninterrupted succession of ascents and descents, of the enchanted everchanging landscape of beautiful vistas that appear from the streets of the valley. Even the most skeptical visitor doesn’t doubt that St. Francis could not be from Assisi.
The Basilica of San Francesco is accessed from the Lower Square of San Francisco, a large and charming square surrounded by arches from the XV century. This grand and imposing building, begun in 1228, two years after the Saint's death, and ended in 1230 (the year in which the body was moved), is among the most famous holy places of Christianity. Affected by the 1997 earthquake, which hit a small part of Umbria, the Basilica has been damaged, which fortunately was not irreparable, except for a stretch of frescos located in the Upper Basilica.
The Basilica is composed of the superposition of two churches: the Lower and Upper and alongside these two Basilicas, there is a large Romanesque bell tower with arched, two-light and three-light windows, and large arches. The design of the Basilica is believed to be the work of Brother Elia, General Vicar of the Franciscan Order after the death of St. Francis. The Lower Basilica is accessed through a twin Gothic portal, topped by three rosettes, always in Gothic style, and a portico built in the fifteenth century. The interior of the Basilica, one single aisle, divided into five spans, nestled in the shadows, with its blue facade studded with stars, calls to mind the mysticism of the lonely places where the saint retired to meditate. Upon entering the Basilica, in the area of the first span, there are frescos by Sermei and Martelli. To the left is the Chapel of St. Sebastian with frescos from 600 A.D., by G. Martelli, and on the right two Gothic tombs, and a podium. Passing by the chapel of St. Anthony Abbot, a door on the right leads to a small courtyard and then to the chapel of St. Catherine, which contains frescos of "Episodes from the life of Sonta", by Andrea from Bologna. The aisle, however, is decorated with many frescos of the 1200’s works of Maestro di St. Francis, many of which were destroyed by the opening access to the chapel arches. In the middle of the nave, two staircases leading to the crypt where Saint Francis’s relics are kept in a stone urn. There are very beautiful stained glass windows of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries that enrich the many chapels of the late thirteenth century.: on the right, the chapel of St. Stephen, with frescos by Dono Doni, then the chapel of St. Anthony of Padua, with works by Sermei, that of Mary Magdalene with frescos by Giotto and Maestro di Vele, and the chapel of San Martino with frescos by Simone Martini from the early fourteenth century. Moving into the Sanctuary, the focus shifts to the elegant altar of the thirteenth century, and in the nave, representations from the school of Giotto, frescos depicting the Franciscan virtues (chastity, poverty, obedience) and the "Triumph of St. Francis". In the south transept decorated with the "Stories of the infancy of Christ," the school of Giotto, one of the most beautiful works of Cimabue can be admired: "Enthroned Madonna and Child, St Francis and the Four Angels" and "Five Saints ", attributed to Simone Martini.
The Chapel of St. Nicola, which opens at the head of the transept where there are frescos of the Giotto school and the Gothic tomb of Giovanni Orsini. The left transept was decorated by Pietro Lorenzetti and his pupils, the frescos depicting "Scenes from the Passion" and the famous "Madonna of Tramonti," these are works that enhance the undisputed talents of this great artist. By the staircase, which starts from a terrace overlooking the fifteenth century Great Cloister, we climb up to the Upper Basilica, entirely frescod between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries by the greatest artists of the time: from Cimabue to Giotto, Pietro Cavallini to Jacopo Torriti.
In contrast to the Lower Basilica, here inside a single nave with a transept and a polygonal apse, it is bright, and "sunny", proposing the other face of Francis, one of love for life and nature, the Francis of the "Canticle of the Sun." Works by Cimabue and his students are represented in the frescos on the walls of the Apse and transept ("Stories of St. Peter," "The Apocalypse", "The Crucifixion" and the "Facts of the life of Mary"), on the cross poised on the high altar (the "Evangelists"), traditionally attributed to Giotto and the splendid cycle of frescos which run down the aisle (starting from the altar) representing, in twenty-eight squares, the "episodes of the life of St. Francis," whose interpretive quality of these frescos ranks among the greatest masterpieces of Western art. The upper part of the walls of the nave, with open windows from the thirteenth century, and frescoed thirty-four panels representing "Stories of the New and the Old Testament, executed in the thirteenth century, by Jacopo Torriti, Philip Resuti and a young Giotto student of Cimabue at that time. Also interesting is the wooden choir froom 1491-1502, created by Domenico Indivini. Worth a visit to the Treasure Museum (inside the basilica) with precious vestments, illuminated manuscripts and paintings by great masters and donated to the Sacred Convent.
Also worthwhile seeing the Perkins collection of paintings on wood from the fourteenth or fifteenth century from the Florentine-Sienese school. Leaving behind the beautiful Gothic facade of the Basilica Superiore, characterized by a large rose window and a twin portal, we enter in the medieval town along Via San Francesco until you get to the Town Square three feet below where you can walk through the Roman Forum which is accessed through the crypt of St. Nicholas and the Civic Museum.
In the Town Square, on the northern side are located: the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo from the XIII century, flanked by the beautiful Torre del Popolo which began in the second decade of the year 1200 and completed in 1305, of which in 1926 was set up the “Campana delle Laudi” (Bell of Praise). The Temple of Minerva, next to the Torre del Popolo, is a superb example of a temple building of the first century B.C. then converted in the sixteenth century, in what is the Church of S. Maria above Minerva. On the south side of the square is the Palazzo dei Priori, consists of four buildings from different eras built between the thirteenth and fifteenth century, now the Town Hall and the Municipal Art Gallery.
Along Via S. Rufino we arrive to the square of the same name where the Cathedral is located, dedicated to San Rufino, Bishop martyrized in the third century.. The beautiful Romanesque facade has three portals that correspond to the three interior naves, three beautiful roses, placed in symmetry with the portals and a triangular gable with a large Gothic arch built towards the end of the thirteenth century.
Alongside stands a massive stone tower, built on the remains of a Roman cistern, adorned with two-light and three-light windows and blind arches. The interior, as mentioned, has three naves and was restored in the XVI century. Entering on the right side of the aisle is the ancient baptismal font, where were baptized, St. Francis, St. Clare, St. Agnes, St. Gabriel, and, in 1197, the future Emperor Frederick II of Swabia. In the apse there is a beautiful carved choir stall from the sixteenth century, By Giovanni di Pier Jacopo from San Severino and the crypt, placed under the facade of the Cathedral, and a Roman sarcophagus. Next to the church there is the Museum Capitolare of which we discuss more later.
At S. Rufino’s square, noting well, to the right, there is a medieval palace, considered the father's house of S. Chiara. Reaching Piazza Santa Chiara we are face the Basilica of Santa Chiara, a remarkable example of Italian Gothic architecture of the thirteenth century. Begun in 1257 and consecrated in 1265, it was built and probably designed by Filippo da Campello.
The exterior is characterized by three large arches of the fourteenth century. resting on the left side, from a simple facade with a round portal flanked by two lions and surmounted by a beautiful rose window and a slender bell tower with spire. The interior, by a nave, on the apse sits a "Cross", painted on wood, by the school of Giunta Pisano, in the left transept, a painting of the fourteenth century, depicting a nativity scene, from the Umbro-Sienese school, and to the right transept a panel from the Maestro di Santa Clara, (La Tavola di Santa Chiara) depicting Saint Chiara and eight sequences of her life. Going down in the crypt of the nineteenth century in a glass urn, there are the mortal remains of the saint. In the right aisle, a door leads to the annexed chapel of St. George, restored a few years ago, where are kept: the relics of St. Francis and St. Clare and the crucifix which, according to tradition spoke to San Francesco in the church of San Damiano. The Chapel of the Sacrament, hosts frescos of the Giotto and Sienese school of the thirteenth and fourteenth century. The imposing building which supports the Basilica sits the Order of the Poor Ladies. We end our tour with a visit to Assisi in the church of San Pietro, elegant building from the thirteenth century in Romanesque style. The church, built over an existing building of worship, has a beautiful facade with three portals (the middle is the largest) with three beautiful roses placed on the portals vertically and an elegant bell tower located near the apse. In the interior, three naves are present with a raised Sanctuary which house frescos from the fourteenth century.
Assisi is dominated by the Rocca Maggiore (Major Fortress) easily reached by the gate Porta Perlici (near the ruins of the Roman Empire). It is situated within the walls of the city of which offer a three hundred and sixty degree beautiful view of the Umbrian Valley. Built even before the conquest of the Lombards, the fortress hosted for several years Frederick II of Swabia and Duke Conrad of Lutzen, his teacher, but in 1198 a riot drove the duke away and demolished the fortress. Rebuilt in 1367 at the behest of the Papal Legate, Cardinal Egidio Albornoz, it was further fortified and designed by Ugolino di Montemarte. Later popes, Pius II and Paul III expanded the fortifications of the Rocca Minore (Minor Fortress or Castle) which was once connected, through narrow passages, to the Rocca Maggiore (Major Fortress).
WHAT TO SEE NEARBY
Leaving Assisi, direction Mount Subasio, after four kilometers you will reach the Hermitage of Carceri. It is located between dense vegetation in a panoramic position on the slopes of Mount Subasio. It sits in an ancestral silence broken only by the chirping of birds. It is an excellent example of a Franciscan setting, where you can catch the "true meaning" of the teachings of Saint Francesco. The Hermitage at the beginning was a small oratory, owned by the Benedictine monks of St. Francis. The monastery was built near the cave where St. Francis withdrew to pray and meditate, and in the fifteenth century, it was expanded with the construction of the church.
Here at the monastery is where the ancient holm oak trees reminiscent of the "preaching to the birds" are located; here also is where the "Devil's Hole" lies, which recalls the temptations of Saint Francis, and here the "Grotta del Santo" and where numerous caves of the hermits are located; and here is where we still feel the strong presence of the "Poverello di Assisi " (Poor Man from Assisi). Going down from Mount Subasio running along Assisi and coasting towards the plains, before exiting from Assisi, on the left, there are signs that lead us to the Sanctuary of San Damiano. Immersed in a green habitat on a natural hill terrace, which has a wonderful view of the Umbrian Valley and the mountains that surround the ancient church, rebuilt in 1207 by St. Francis and based on what was “ordered” by the crucifix (as mentioned before, now kept in the church of Santa Chiara). According to tradition, the crucifix addressed Saint Francis by saying: "Go, Francis, and repair my house that is collapsing." The Sanctuary, recently restored, was also the place that was home to Santa Chiara, and her first followers, and where the Saint died. Here St. Francis composed that wonderful hymn to life: "Canticle of the Sun." A must see, among other beauties, within the Sanctuary, the Garden and the Oratory of Santa Chiara, and the Chapel of St. Jerome, with frescos by Tiberio d'Assisi, the cloister, the old refectory, the small church with frescos from the fourteenth century. and a wooden crucifix of the seventeenth century by (brother) Fra 'Innocenzo of Palermo.
Going down to the valley we are welcomed by the giant Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, located in the hamlet of the same name. Built in 1569 and designed by Galeazzo Alessi, the Basilica was completed in 1679 and repaired in 1832. The exterior is characterized by a beautiful dome, a huge golden statue of the Virgin and by valuable baroque architectural motifs. The interior has three naves, dotted with numerous baroque chapels which house paintings by Pomarancio, Sermei, Appiani and other artists and these three naves converge at what is called the "jewel" of the Basilica: the Portiuncula (a small chapel located within the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli) . The Basilica dates back to the fourth century, dominated by the dome of the Basilica, it was restored by St. Francis where he received here the first religious community formed, the "Hovel" of Rivotorto, and always in this same place, Clare of Scifi decided in 1211 to follow the example of St. Francis. The Gothic vault, which surmounts the Portiuncula, is the work of Francesco and there are frescos of the XIV-XV century. The facade is decorated with a fresco by Johann Friedrich Overbek of Lübeck, dating 1829. Inside, a beautiful placed on the altar from 1393, by Ilario da Viterbo, depicting the "Annunciation" and episodes from the life of St. Francis.
A few meters from the Portiuncula there is the Cappella del Transito, where, on October 3, 1226, died St. Francis. Inside there are frescos of the sixteenth century from Spain and a ceramic piece by Andrea della Robbia. Still inside the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, after a brief walk following the signs that lead near the Sacristy, you must see the Miraculous Roseto (where according to the tradition, the rose thorns, touched by St. Francis, were transformed in thornless roses that still flourish), the Chapel of the Roses, with frescos by Tiberio d'Assisi, the convent, where the Museum of Universal Ethnography is located.
Tourism in general and the pilgrimages, in particular, are the strengths of the economy of Assisi, which also has a good reputation in trade and crafts. A dense and active network of accommodation facilities is able to ensure the of thousands of tourists who annually converge to Assisi that their stay is comfortable. Tourists who come to Assisi to admire the numerous works of art, to visit the places of St. Francis and St. Clare, either because they were attracted to its natural beauty or by the numerous manifestations that characterize the life of the town. In the alleys of the old town you can buy typical local products: wrought iron, woodwork, copper, embroidery made with the characteristic "point of Assisi", stained glass, jewelry, baskets and bags.
...speaking of Assisi, it is our duty to include an excerpt of a written statement by Mr. Gian Paolo Brama:
I thank the city of Assisi, who has been able to welcome me during the period of my studies dating back to the mid-eighties.
I thank the citizens and especially thank the National Boarding School Prince of Naples and the Institute of Professional Hotel Studies where I graduated with a specialization in " bar-dining hall services."
I thank my dear professors who, in those years of school, they took the place of my parents, taught me not only the "profession", but also improving my education, my know-how, myself and my listening skills.
Thanks you all:
Gian Paolo Brama