Set on the western side of the Subasium mount, the Latin Asisium is a famous center of Christianity, town where St. Francis, Italy's patron saint, and St. Claire were born and lived. Inhabited by the Umbri (an indigenous population) since the Villanovian period, it became an important Etruscan settlement and a Roman municipium. Afterr the fall of the Roman Empire, Assisi knew the destruction of the barbarian invasions. Conquered by the Byzantines, in 1174 it passed under the control of Frederick Barbarossa. Few years later, between 1181 and 1182, Francis born here, in Assisi, son of Pietro di Bernardone and Madonna Pica, destined to become the most famous Saint of the humanity.
Assisi, the Basilica of St. Francis and the other Franciscan sites have been declared by UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2000, for their spiritual and architectural value.
There is a magic atmosphere in its alleys and squares: it's a location rich in mysticism and spirituality, a place of pilgrimage from all aver the world.
The Basilica of St. Francis, mirable example of Italian Gothic style, is composed of two churches built one above the other, the lower one dating from 1228-1230 and the upper one from 1230-1253 and a crypt dug in 1818 which houses the Saint's tomb. The Lower Basilica was decorated by the greatest painters of the 13th and 14th centuries: Cimabue, Giotto, the Lorenzetti brothers and Simone Martini. The stained glass windows are especially beautiful. The Upper Basilica is adorned by Giotto's frescos illustrating the life of St. Francis. There are also works by Cimabue, Cavallini and Torriti. The monastery houses a remarkable "Treasury" composed of rare illuminated manuscripts and the Perkins collection.
The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli was constructed between 1569 and 1679 and crowned by the magnificent dome designed by Alessi. It encloses the Porziuncola (the nucleus of the first Franciscan monastery and the place where St. Claire received the Franciscan cowl from St. Francis in 1211) and the Cappella del Transito where St. Francis died on 3rd October 1226. To the side of the basilica is the Chapel of the Roses with frescos by Tiberio d'Assisi. The Museum annex contains works by the Maestro di San Francesco, Giunta Pisano and others.
The Basilica of St. Claire is an example of Italian Gothic architecture. It was constructed between 1257-1265 and contains precious paintings dating from the 12th - 14th centuries and the famous Crucifix venerated by St. Francis at San Damiano. The body of St. Claire is preserved in the crypt.
Other important Franciscan sites are the Sanctuary of San Damiano, built on the spot where St. Francis heard the voice of Christ, where he wrote the Canticle of the Creatures and where St. Claire founded her convent, the Sanctuary of Rivotorto, where the "hovel of St. Francis" is preserved in memory of the first
Franciscan community, the Eremo (hermitage) delle Carceri, in the woods of the Subasio mount where St. Francis usually prayed, and the Cathedral of San Rufino, with its impressive Romanesque style façade (1140), preserved the baptismal font where St. Francis and St. Claire were baptized.
The Roman Temple of Minerva (dating from the 1st century B.C.), the 13th century Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, the Torre del Popolo, completed in 1305, and the Palazzo dei Priori (14th century) overlook Piazza del Comune. The Roman forum is located below Piazza del Comune and encompasses the original Roman paving.