08 – Assisi

Assisi – 24 Septembre 2008 – “Home of the Friars”

Took a daily excursion today to the old hillside castle town of Assisi. Which you might have indirectly heard of if you’ve ever seen a friar or a nun.

This town is where the whole Catholic Jesuit society began with it all starting with St. Francis. St. Francis was a the son of a rich man who decided he no longer wanted a life of luxury and complications, but a life of simplicity and poverty. So in short he turn away from his family (who seems to have disowned him) and became a popper. Later he grew a huge following that spawned the whole idea of the Jesuit society of Franciscans and from his lady friend, who followed in his footsteps, the female equivalent. Later the town built three lavish & amazing church’s (all on the same site) to celebrate his name. This is very ironic considering his whole life was about rejecting material things; but the Church justified it as to celebrate him. He was also, so we were told, one of the first saints to receive the stigmata, which is basically receiving the wounds that Jesus had received from the crucifixion. Very Interesting, I’m not sure how much I believe in these sort of “relic” ideas but to see how much others believed in intriguing. Overall the town of Assisi, besides its own beauty, is deep with religious & historical significance.

Of course, since I’m much more of protestant than a catholic, the part that I like the most was the architecture. The Basilica di San Francesco was brilliant and unique as you could see it evolve with the ages. It began with the first Romanesque church (1228); low vaulted ceilings, dark colors, with the altar (initially his burial place) attracting the most attention. It would have been very simple had not the church later allowed local nobles pay to make additional naives down the main Abbey for their loved ones. This seems to be a trend with the Catholic Church at least in the old days. The Pope’s of the medieval ages seemed to be more rulers than religious icons. The second Church was built above the first, and is more Gothic in nature but the Italian representation of Gothic. Very tall and slender, but with a Italian twist of colors & light tones in contrast to typical gothic of dark tones. The woodwork was magnificent but one of the truly special points about these Churches is their importance to the growth and development of art. There are many great paintings from Lorenzetti & Giotto. With Giotto making some of the first known attempts during the Middle Ages to use reality and perspective in his works; using blue skies instead of gold, local landscapes, and displaying depth. This was much fun to see & our tour guide was great entertainment, not to mention beautiful and intelligent, these Italians, wow! Her sentence constructions were so hilarious and with an accent that captivated everyone. The third church was built most recently (20th Century) below the initial first. Very creative; this is more of a crypt as it now contains the permanent tomb of St. Francis. Although this third church is probably the most appreciated by St. Francis as it’s the most simple in structure, design, and decoration; sticking to the bare roots. Overall great contrast and was almost a live book of design techniques. The facade of these Churches is also quite different, “pink,” which is the local common marble. 

The town of Assisi besides its religious history and numerous architectural splendors (an Old Roman temple with very intact facade converted to Baroque shrine, Basillica di Santa Chiara which houses Saint Claire who founded the nunnery and her actual body can be witnessed in the crypt! Very creepy) is set in unimaginable scenery from the Tuscan hills as well as a picturesque labyrinth of pink toned stones townhomes with a castle on top of its hill. 

After our morning tour we met for lunch reservations, had a great meal, vino rosso (so strange), and great company. I sat with a visitor to our center who was a past student from Cal Polytechnic Institute and is currently living in Italy (she was originally born in Italy before moving to the US as a kid, so its kind of cheating if you ask me, too easy). She was great entertainment giving great pointers on all facets of life. She and I got entangled into a conversation about sailing (my new major interest to learn in life, after finding out my mom can do this and realizing this is a sport I can do well into my added years) in which we agreed we together will one day open a  active vacation sailing company. It combines both of our great joys of the world; water, travel, outdoors, and red wine plus cooking (great food only) which of course will be served on board.

Afterwards the crew headed up the hill towards the castle. Deciding to be adventurous we skipped the main entrance and climbed the castle walls like the classic warriors of its day. Don’t’ worry, there were signs that gave of the idea permitting this sort of action, as well as no cover charge to the castle; no laws broken. I can’t tell you how invigorating this was as we sat on the castle ways peering over the Tuscan valley, it was truly humbling. Being in such a history and religiously important town you couldn’t help but think about the splendor of god’s creations!




  1. Cool………yes ! The wonderful story of Francis who gave up everything to begin the Franciscan Order….AND of his lady who began the first order of nuns……I think her name was Clare……..There was a great movie about this story some years back called “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” that was filmed on location in Assisi……….wish I could see it in person! Enjoy it man !! and by the way……the photos are amazing……..WAR EAGLE !!

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