Visiting Assisi – The Home of St Francis
Tourism is way up in the little, but very significant town of Assisi ever since Pope Francis took the name (said to be after St Francis of Assisi). In fact it is one of the hottest tourist destinations for visitors coming to Italy. Perched atop a hillside overlooking a beautiful valley below, this town was the birth place and home of St Francis for his entire life. Assisi is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. I must say, the village is extremely well done and clearly setup for tourists. The village is easy to get around with cute shops lining the narrow streets of Assisi.
St Francis (1182 – 1226) only lived for 44 years but what an impact he had on all Catholics. Interesting and something I did not know, for the first 24 years of his life he lived as a rich and materialistic man. After a calling from God, he completely changed his life and gave up his riches to live a life of service to the poor and disabled. He performed hundreds of miracles healing the sick during that time of his life.
A couple of interesting facts, St Francis was the one who created the Nativity scene that we all see each Christmas. Also, St Francis is the patron saint for animals. He was the first person to recognize that animals are on the same level as humans. Today, a notion that most animal lovers really understand. This is why you will often see statues and paintings of St Francis with animals (see below). Another fun fact is that San Francisco (my hometown) was named after St Francis. In fact many of the cities in California are named after the Umbria region of Italy where Assisi is located. The names however have been translated into Spanish, however the origins come from here.
Here are a few highlights of Assisi that I highly recommend you see (unfortunately I have limited pictures because you are not allowed to take pictures inside the churches).
- The Basilica of San Francis (San Francesco)– This is the resting place for St Francis’ body. You can visit the crypt below the altar. I highly recommend you do this. Some people say they can feel his presence which can be a powerful feeling. The Basilica is quite beautiful inside and very well-preserved. The frescos on the wall tell many interesting stories (this is a place I recommend going with a guide).
- St Francis Childhood Home – Interesting to learn that St Francis was actually put inside a jail by his father in the family home. His father thought he had lost his mind when he gave up all his worldly possessions and wealth for a life of poverty. Thank God his mother set him free.
- Papal Basilica of St Mary of the Angels – This church was built in the 16th century and is actually a church that literally sits over St Francis’ original church (which is nearly perfectly preserved). They say that while his physical body lies in the Basilica, his heart rests in the church where he did all is work in. Oh yes, I was told that the city of Los Angeles was named after this church. Note, this church is on Vatican grounds.
For the past 10 plus years, I have always wanted to come to Assisi to see the home of St Francis. As some of you know I am a big fan of Wayne Dyer. He always spoke about his travels to Assisi and said it was one of the most important spiritual places he has ever been to. Reflect on how St Francis changed his life from a materialistic existence to a life of service and I think you will understand why visiting Assisi is more than visiting a quaint little Italian village.
Inside Traveler Tips:
If you want to visit Assisi, it is only two hours from Rome. The countryside you pass through along the way is absolutely breathtaking, filled with green rolling hills and mountains almost all the way there. I do suggest booking a tour, because it is not that easy to get there on your own. An all-day tour including lunch is about 100 euros. When in Assisi I suggest that you purchase some Dolce di San Francesco bread. The bread is very dense and quite sweet. It is a special recipe of the Franciscans and well worth the high price.
The Prayer of St Francis
I would like to end this blog post with the Prayer of St Francis. Whether you are Catholic or not, give it a glance. I think you might like it and heck nothing bad every comes from reading a prayer.
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to be console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
It is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
– St Francis of Assisi