Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sabado In Assisi

Yesterday was our day trip to Assisi. This town in the region of Umbria was the home to both Saint Francis and Saint Claire. Assisi is full of all kinds of history and some of the most beautiful frescoes I have ever seen. We were lucky enough to have a local tour guide, who himself lived just over the mountain behind the more populated area in Assisi. He was so knowledgeable and wasn't afraid to make some jokes along the way to keep us all on our toes wondering what we would get to see next! Our first stop was at the Basilica of Saint Claire where we got to see the crucifix that had spoken to Saint Francis in his earlier years. It was extremely crowded. Sunday is actually Saint Francis day and our tour guide told us that everyone that was in Assisi that day were trying to avoid the even larger crowds of the next. We then entered the lower level of the church where the actual body of Sain't Claire is kept. We had a similar experience while we were in Sienna in the Church of Saint Catherine and we would have another within the Tomb of Saint Francis later in the day. After leaving the church we passed a gypsy dressed as an angel sitting at a table signing what seemed like autographs with a bright yellow quilled pen. That was followed by a man dressed like Jesus asking for money from whoever walked by. Some of the things people do to make money gets pretty weird around here! We were also lucky enough to stop off at a store with its own piece of history. They had a printing press that was used during WWII to make fake documents for the 300 jewish people in town. They had originally been hiding in the church in town, there was a hollow room between two levels that was a secret for years, but they couldn't be kept there forever so a man decided to give them all identification so they would be saved from the nazis coming through the town. It was extremely interesting and just reassured us of the impact that Saint Francis had on this town. The next site was the Temple of Minerva, which was transformed into a church in 1539. The outside had a very Roman feel, columns with not much color, very beautiful but not very decorative. On the inside it was amazing. It was decorated from wall to wall, ceiling to different from the outside. our guide told us the the person who decided to make the church this way was to show that sometimes people can look very normal, uninteresting, and plain on the outisde but within they would be more amazing than you could ever imagine. I really enjoyed that. After walking through Assisi for a little while longer we finally arrived at the Basilica di San Fracisco. We were all so looking forward to see some of the more famous frescoes in the top of the church, but it was closed due to some sort of politcal event, all of the police around the building never did tell us what was going on. We were able to see many of the paintings of Giotto and others in the lower level of the church as well as the Tomb of Saint Francis. This was a little different than those of Saint Claire and Saint Catherine-Saint Francis' tomb was huge! We were told that he had requested to be buried outside of the town of Assisi out of respect for Jesus, because he was not buried within the walls of his own town. Later on after his burial they built a tomb around him, then the basilica around that...which eventually became part of the town of Assisi many years later. It's a really great experience seeing the way that Saint Francis(and the others) still affect people today. It's a very quiet, spiritual experience that affects everyone very differently. When we left the church we were free to explore the town and grab some lunch. I picked up a great panino from a smaller area of town and searched for some gifts while my mouth fell wide open at almost every corner, either because of a beautiful view or another amazing piece of architecture. When it was finally time to return to the bus, on my walk to the parcheggio, I noticed the upper doors of the Basilica di San Francisco were open! I basically sprinted to the doors and got to see the frescoes I wanted to see more than anything! I walked around the church in awe for as long as I could then ran to the bus, arriving still with a few minutes to spare. It was a really great day and I am so happy we had the chance to visit such a historical and beautiful town.

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