The semester is ending and the winter season is ending. As the world winds down for Christmas and we students wind up for finals, a mental pause was needed. To this end, I attended a school-run pilgrimage to the city of Assisi, the home and resting place of Saints Francis and Clare.
Now I would like to stress that this was a pilgrimage trip. The monks in the churches were very strict concerning the “no photos” rule. As such, I only snapped three pictures of the interior of the churches I visited. Specifically, two of the Lower Basilica of Saint Francis…
… which was awash in beautifully colored frescoes and absolutely stunning…
… and one picture of the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels, and the little Porziuncula within, which was the actual chapel of Saint Francis. Beyond this, all I can provide picture wise are exteriors of churches visited and pictures of the city and countryside.
What a city Assisi is. Almost mythically, it seems to rises out the mountain, built of the same stones as the mountain itself.
See the Basilica of Saint Francis, which is a beige stone monolith. Note too the Christmas tree beside, in the beginnings of decoration. It was Saint Francis who invented the Nativity set, and as such the Franciscans take Christmas very seriously. I was unable to acquire a good picture the life sized presepe the monks were setting up further in the city, but believe me when I say that the tradition is well alive.
The Basilica of Saint Clare is in the heart of the city, overlooking a beautiful countryside.
The church itself is in a well used piazza, with stores along the roads and market stalls not far off. It was quite a comparison to the Basilica of Saint Francis, which is set off to the side of the city and walled off.
The cathedral of the city, devoted to San Rufino, which you could tell the city was built around. Though humblest of the holy sites visited, it exists within a web of streets, stairs, alleys, and shops. It, by far, felt the most lived in.
The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels, the mother church of the Franciscans and the namesake of Los Angeles, is quite a glorious sight. Not unlike the Vatican, security with metal detectors and men with guns guard the church and the Porziuncula within. Here is the museum, the monastic, store, and all the actual bits of infrastructure of the international brotherhood that is the Franciscan Order.
As I said, this was very much a pilgrimage trip. Mass and vespers, prayers and psalms were offered in every holy place visited and on the bus ride to the city. We dipped into secluded side chapels that were usually locked off to the public. I saw the grave of Saint Francis and the body of Saint Clare. After being moved spiritually by Assisi and the stories of the saints who lived there, I can only wonder at what it must have felt like to journey here centuries ago. I’m just a spoiled brat who took a bus northward from Rome, yet I can see easily why humble pilgrims of the middle ages would come by foot to bask in the holiness and to feel saved.
And speaking of humble people journeying far, Christmas is fast approaching. My final exams are next week, so do not expect too much from me blog wise. I will, however, be here in Italy for Christmas, so I’ll try to snap some pictures and capture some anecdotes from an Italian Advent.
Indulge me while I enjoy the season a bit. I wrote this blog listening to Silent Night. Excitement builds.