Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Italy - Assisi (2006)

Day 3: 2nd May 2006

Collection of St Francis robes in Assisis - all sold to finance church repair

We departed immediately after breakfast and group checked out from a resort Hotel in Sorrento. On day 3, we passes some of Italy’s most impressive coastal scenery departing the resort of Sorrento. The morning journey over steep white cliffs offers fantastic views over the Bay of Naples to reach Assisi.We were travelling more than 400 km to reach Assisi, a birth place of St Francis and duration time of nearly or more than 6 hours before reaching a small medievel town on a hill in Umbria region of Perugia region, the heart of Italy. Assisi hold a religious, historical and a unique artistic significance, well preserve since 1208.

The scan photo does not did any justice to the a beautiful view of Sorrento resort, my apology

I was reading passionately about the life journey of Christian saint, St Francis of Assisis who left a rich and comfortable life seeking wisdom from God, similar to the story of Luqman, the wisemen in 1100BC as told in Chapter 31 of the Holy Quran (also similar to life story of a Greek wisemen, Aesop (620-564BC)). 3 of them, St Francis, Luqman and Aesop are described as a perceptive man, always watching the animals and plants of their surroundings, and tried to understand the world based on what they saw. St Francis heard Jesus calling in his dream  "Francis, Francis, go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins". His devotion to christianity leading him to Rome and as far as to Egypt to convert the Sultan Al-Kamil. I must say that I feel really bless to feel his presence in my visit.

Pleasant walk by the city of Assisi

Beautiful building as soon as approaching the city from the main parking space

The first church in Assisi town that we entered was the Basilica of Saint Claire which is dedicated to and contains the remains of Saint Clare of Assisi, a follower of Saint Francis of Assisi and founder of the Order of Poor Ladies, known today as the Order of Saint Clare. Construction of the church began under the direction of Filippo Campello, one of the foremost architects of the time. On 3 October 1260, Clare's remains were transferred from the chapel of San Giorgio to the Basilica of Saint Clare where they were buried in the earth under the high altar of the new church.

Basilica of Saint Claire in the background photo
I entered the Temple of an ancient Roman building in Assisi as a second stop. The temple currently houses a church, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, built in 1539 and renovated in Baroque style in the 17th century. The temple was built in the 1st century BC by will of Gneus Caestius and Titus Caesius Priscus, who were two of the city's quattuorviri (governor), who had also financed the construction. The attribution to the goddess Minerva derives from the finding of a female statue, although a dedication stone to Hercules has been found, and the temple was likely dedicated to this male semi-god. In the Middle Ages the temple housed a tribunal with an annexed jail, as testified by one of Giotto's frescoes in the St. Francis Basilica, which portrays the church windows with bars.

Temple of ancient Roman houses church of  Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Of the ancient temple, the fa├žade has been preserved, with six Corinthian columns supporting the architrave and a small pediment. The columns were originally covered by a very strong plaster, which was perhaps colored. The cell was completely demolished during the church's construction, in the 16th century, while a small section of the temple was found in the 20th century near the altar. The temple was visited and described by the German poet Goethe during his travels in Italy, as the first ancient structure in good condition seen during his life (1786).

Inside view at a prayer hall of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva church

The last place we stopped after a quick pizza and coffee break was the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor,  commonly known as the Franciscan Order. The basilica is one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy. With its accompanying friary, the basilica is a distinctive landmark to those approaching Assisi. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

The mother church in Gothic style

The basilica, which was begun in 1228, is built into the side of a hill and comprises two churches known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church, and a crypt where the remains of the saint are interred. The interior of the Upper Church is an important early example of the Gothic style in Italy. The Upper and Lower Churches are decorated with frescoes by numerous late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools, and include works by Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti and possibly Pietro Cavallini. The range and quality of the works gives the basilica a unique importance in demonstrating the development of Italian art of this period.

Cannot resist to take picture next to a beautiful vases garden 

Assisi was hit by two devastating earthquakes, that shook Umbria in September 1997. But the recovery and restoration have been remarkable, although much remains to be done. Massive damage was caused to many historical sites, but the major attraction, the Basilica di San Francesco, reopened less than 2 years later. Historical Assisi is very small and easily explored on foot, but I would advised you to go slowly, or the hilly streets will put you out of breath. You may take an occasional rest in one of the cool churches or enjoy an ice cream break in between a cool walk. It is advisable to begin your tour at the top of the town (which is the oldest part), so you can enjoy the city going down the hill (our group was doing bottom up as we dont have to walk down after diner. The bus was waiting just nearby).

The ice cream shop operating inside the ancient building, how nice :)

There are many shops display a variety of local arts and crafts, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics and reproductions of medieval weapons and tools. Embroidery and chocolate manufacturing are also typical of the area. Religious items are best purchased at the gift shop behind the lower level of St. Francis basilica. I purchased quite a lot for souvenirs and for home furnishing including the local embroidery items selling in the area. I have the last 2 photos taken during our diner after we have done exploring the lower and courtyard of St Francis Basilica. The restaurant seated not far from there. 

Sunset view by the restaurant balcony

Zuri & I enjoying our Italian diner for the day. The food was excellence and I kept on mentioning about it until 1 day Zuri presented me a thick cookbook of Italian Pasta for my birthday.  
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