The thirteenth-century city of Assisi sits on hill in the region of Umbria to the west of Mount Subasio. Internationally known for its spiritual significance—it was here where the Franciscan Order was born—the entire city is also protected by UNESCO as part of the world’s cultural heritage.
Sacred for religious reasons, it is also important, historically speaking, for its artistic and architectural influence. This is due in part to the message of peace, simplicity, ecology, and tolerance at the heart of Saint Francis’ doctrine, later communicated and spread by his many followers.
Passing through the narrow streets lined with stone buildings, two churches immediately arrest the visitor’s attention: the Romanesque Basilica of St. Francis with mystical charm—it is possible to visit his tomb in the crypt—and the Church of Saint Chiara, adorned on the exterior with striped buttresses. In a side chapel inside the Basilica, hangs the famous cross of Saint Damian. It is reported that Saint Francis received his vocation praying before it. In the main nave, colorful frescoes by Giotto depict scenes from the life of this courageous man who chose poverty and charity as a means to teach Christ’s mercy.