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What Can I Say About Assisi?

The missus was raised to be a good Catholic girl. So naturally, Assisi was on the itinerary. The drive through Tuscany and into Umbria was just stunning.

Seriously, though, folks, the drive was mostly beautiful, with a few pockets of industrialism mixed in for good measure.

The old city of Assisi is built on a hill, and approaching it from the new part of Assisi (which doesn’t make a great first impression), makes for a pretty good opening.

We also parked in this crazy Roman parking lot.

Assisi, of course, is the home of St. Francis, who lived like a hermit and preached to the animals, or something. Because I was raised Lutheran, I don’t know tons about St. Francis. I mean, I seem to remember singing one of his prayers around the fire at the Lutheran camp, but mostly during those weeks, I was focused on girls. Ah, church camp. But I digress. Here’s St. Francis:

Assisi is a beautiful town. Just walking around is a pleasure. We were there during the week after Easter, so there were tons of pilgrims (as opposed to Pilgrims), but as in Venice, by wandering around the back streets, you can also avoid people if you want to.

There were still some remnants of the Palm Sunday reenactment, too.

By the way, this lion is eating that Christian martyr, not throwing him up.

One of the churches we wandered into was this way over-the-top Baroque thing that was mostly just tacky. But here, the marble is still stained with the blood of Christian martyrs. The Catholics love the blood of their martyrs.

Across from the Baroque church was an old market that had some nice frescoes. I like frescoes. Do you like frescoes? I also like Fresca, although I don’t drink it anymore.

St. Clare’s basilica was built around the original chapel, which was just too darn small for the many pilgrims. We were pretty psyched to visit St. Clare’s basilica, partially because it’s the missus’ middle namesake.

St. Clare’s a scene, man. The reason it gets so many pilgrims is that it features the crucifix before which St. Francis had his original vision. So in the room with that crucifix (where you can’t take any photos), people from all over the world are all over the place. A few (not many), like me, are just soaking it all in. Others are forcing their teen groups to pray before the crucifix. Others are clearly praying for miracles, fervent and teary. Okay, so maybe I’m an agnostic who suspects that the atheists probably have it right, but the worship over a crucifix (even an old, lovely one with history) struck me as downright strange.

And there’s nothing peaceful or spiritual about the chapel in which it hangs. It was just people moving in, praying, moving out. It reminded me of  the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at any given church service. Most people are just going through the motions, not really paying attention to the words as they rattle them off, and those congregants who speak pieces of it with more emphasis or volume seem more self-righteous than sincere.

Still, I thought the pink marble at St. Clare’s was beautiful. Very feminine.

The Basilica of St. Francis was the big one, of course. And it was impressive for lots of reasons. Our favorite thing about it was the series of Giotto frescoes on the inside. Again, no photos allowed. But they were beautiful. Also, the setting for the basilica was awfully nice.

What was interesting about Assisi, though, is that probably the most spiritual place we went was a rather nondescript church built and designed (if you can call it that) by some stonemasons. An olive grove sits above it.

Inside, it was peaceful. A single, ancient woman prayed. The missus lit a candle for her father. Very simple. Very beautiful.

We also had an entertaining visit with an artist who has a store full of his work on the main drag of Assisi. He was all about peace and love. He also designed and built this sculpture, which now lives outside the Basilica of St. Clare. I’m showing this mostly because I really liked that guy.

One comment on “What Can I Say About Assisi?

  1. Brian on said:

    Vaune and I sat on the grass in front of the basilica, and dropped a little flashlight. Then we went back a lot later to look for it… and we found it! It was a miracle.

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