The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi or “Basilica di San Francesco d’Assisi” is a Papal minor basilica located in Assisi, in the Umbria region in Italy. It is one of the most important, and most visited Catholic Pilgrimage destinations in Italy. The breathtaking basilica is built into the side of a hill and includes two Churches referred to as the Upper Church and the Lower Church and the “Sacro Convento” which is the Franciscan friary. The Lower church is a crypt containing the tombs of Saint Francis, to whom the Church is dedicated. St. Francis founded the Franciscan Order and the Basilica is officially recognized as the mother church for the Roman Catholic Order of Friars. After St. Francis died in 1226, Pope Gregory IX Canonized him on July 16, 1228 and placed the foundation stone the very next day to begin construction on the Basilica.
St. Francis was born in and died in Assisi. In addition to the Franciscan Order, St. Francis is also credited with founding the Order of Saint Clare, the Third Order of Saint Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land. His known for dedicating his life to imitating the life of Jesus, serving the poor, and taking a vow of poverty himself. He is the Patron Saint of Italy, animals and the environment. He is also the inspiration for our Holy Father Pope Francis, and the reason for his Papal name. He is also credited for the idea of live Nativity scenes. In 1223 his stigmata appeared after Seraphic angels came to him two years before his death.
A holy city for Christians, Assisi has been an eternal destination of pilgrimage since the 13th century for those venerating Saint Francis and wanting to the see where he was born, worked, died and was buried. As the birthplace of one of Catholicism’s most revered saints (and one of Italy's two saintly patrons), Assisi holds religion very close to its heart. The entire city-sanctuary – a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000 – basks in the coveted status thanks to the plethora of historically significant buildings, such as the Basilica di San Francesco – the jewel in Assisi’s crown, so massive you can see it for miles around. At some point, when the noise of steps made by the numerous monks in long brown robes and the bands of pilgrims roaming the streets fades and the town gets enveloped in an almost mystical silence, you can feel the true spirit of Saint Francis more intimately. Here are some of the places in Assisi you may wish to include in your own pilgrimage: San Francesco Birth House – the original place where Saint Francis was born on July 5, 1182. Cathedral of San Rufino – aka Assisi Cathedral, built atop an old Roman cistern in the 13th century; contains the fountain where both St Francis and St Clare (Chiara) were baptized. Santa Chiara (Saint Clare) Basilica – dedicated to St Clare, St Francis’s contemporary and founder of the Order of the Poor Clares. San Damiano Church – a tiny church marking the spot where, according to legend, St Francis first heard the voice of God telling him to “rebuild the church.”
The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor Conventual in Assisi, a town in the Umbria region in central Italy, where Saint Francis was born and died. It is a Papal minor basilica and one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy.The Basilica of St Francis dominates the view as you approach the city along the route. Once you’re up the hill and inside the maze of streets, you’ll find smaller chapels, monasteries and historic buildings right through the city.At the other end, the Cathedral of St Rufinus and Basilica of St Clare are also both very impressive landmarks.
It was in a small sanctuary in central Italy that St Francis apparently received the stigmata – the bleeding wounds that mimic those of Jesus on the cross. This was 800 years ago and, according to Christian legend, he was the first person in history to be marked like this. St Francis kept his stigmata a secret and it was only discovered on his body after his death. By this time, the marks just confirmed to his followers that he was more than an idle prophet. When he died in 1226, he had already started a movement that was to be one of the most influential in the Catholic Church – and is still felt today.800 years on, I’m standing in that small chapel at La Verna where legend says St Francis received his marks. It’s decorated now with a stunning glazed earthenware depiction of the crucifixion. A new monastery and church have been built above it since and the number of monks has expanded. But down a short set of steps you can reach a quiet cave, tranquil with greenery and the slight dripping of water, where St Francis would sit and meditate for hours.La Verna – just a dot on the map about 80 kilometres from Florence in Tuscany – is the official start of the Way of St Francis, one of Europe’s most iconic pilgrimage trails.
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