29 July 2008

Assisi, Part One

Today I left Rome for Assisi, the small town in the Appenine Mountains of Umbria, made famous by St. Francis in the thirteenth century. I was sad to leave the sisters at the hotel since they’ve been so kind, but it’s definitely nice to be out of Rome and someplace quieter, at least now, in the evening, with most of the crowds gone. The trip here via public transportation wasn’t too bad, though my morning started out poorly when ticket inspectors got on the bus just before Termini and I couldn’t find my newly purchased ticket. 50 euro fines are not fun, especially when I could be buying shoes or gelato instead. Once I got out of Rome, things went more smoothly, and the scenery on the train ride was beautiful. I got to Assisi in the early afternoon after negotiating the many inclines from the bus stop to the convent where I’m staying - I have to say that guidebooks are great, but they really should include topographical maps to prepare you for towns like Assisi! While the nuns at this convent don’t seem to be as friendly as the Brigittines (they’re Franciscans) the location of this convent is spectacular, literally across from the Basilica, and my room has a large window from which I have a dramatic view of the church and the valley below.

The iconic Basilica

View of St. Clare's church and part of the upper town

It was hot again today, so I spent the afternoon at the Basilica admiring the artwork covering the walls. The found amount of “religious-ness” somewhat overwhelming since I’m so used to Protestant churches with their bare walls (and we would never have relics and popish things like that!). Even the Catholic churches in Northern Europe - Notre Dame in Paris and Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe Cathedral in Antwerp included - don’t have such ornate interiors as some of the Italian churches I’ve seen so far. The Roman horror vacui has obviously persisted in Italy and it takes some getting used to. The frescoes are fabulous, though some are in pretty poor condition, both from age and the earthquake about ten years ago. There are three depictions of the Crucifixion between the Lower and Upper Basilicas and two Passion narratives, one in each. I thought the images of the Passion in the Upper Basilica were more interesting and they could have been seen by a wider audience, but I couldn’t find any information about them in the bookstore or tourist information office and photos aren’t allowed inside the building, so I think I’m out of luck. The narrative in the Lower Basilica was done by Pietro Lorenzetti, but is in a chapel which probably would have been inaccessible to most people, so for that reason isn’t particularly useful. The third Crucifixion is also in the Lower Basilica, but it’s on a wall that can only be seen from behind the altar, so again, most people wouldn’t have seen it.

One of the many pretty houses in Assisi

The Pilgrim's Oratory

I spent this evening walking around Assisi appreciating the peacefulness. The sunset was beautiful and I took lots of pictures of the buildings and the scenery. This convent has a 10:00 curfew, but that’s not really a problem since the town quiets down dramatically after around 6:00, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much. Plus, the view of the Basilica and sunset from my room is one of the best in Assisi!

The way into town from the Basilica - the convent where I stayed is the multi-story building with brown shutters to the far left.

The Upper and Lower Basilicas

The view as you approach the church
The sunset...
Gelato count: 5


Albert said...


Albert said...