Saturday, April 08, 2006


Had a wonderful day in Assisi yesterday. Took the 8.09 local train from Firenze and went directly to Assisi on a train going to Foligno. Deposited luggage at the friendly bookstore in the station which performs the function and was off on a local bus for St Francis' Basilica. This is quite huge, courtesy of a Pope, and has two parts, one lower and one upper. The lower one has Francis' tomb in the crypt, and some relics of his, including a much patched tunic. (I was just a bit amazed how many tunics seemed to be around in the course of my time in the town.)
The upper part of the Basilica has a superb series of frescoes by Giotto with scenes from Francis' life. I spent quite a long time gazing at them, and they really did give an insight into his life. I know there was some damage to these when Assisi had an earthquake a few years ago but the damage seems largely repaired. The first fresco showed St Francis as a rich young man, for whom someone laid their cloak across a puddle. But ah ah, then the angel came to him and his life changed completely. You could tell he was the saint because of the halo, so that helped work out what was going on in the frescoes.
There were a couple of modern sculptures in the upper church. One had St Francis sitting down beside a tabernacle with the Eucharist. They always are able to portray him so sympathetically as a kindly man - as opposed to the many statues of the rich and famous around.

The best part of the day was yet to come. I headed up hill and really did seem to have 'wings on my feet' as the uphill came easily. As I climbed higher, there was more evidence around of green spring growth and birds were singing. This was the part of Assisi I could imagine St Francis outside enjoying. A lot of the town's buildings had quite uniform appearance in a older style, I guess after earthquake repairs. But there were still medieval lanes to wander, and I could imagine St Francis on such a day enjoying the sunshine.
I reached the fort at the top as black clouds threatened. Sure enough, there was a thunderclap. As I didn't want to meet my end even if it was on the haunt of St Francis, I headed down and had a quick bite to eat before the heavens opened. Just as well there were some more churches, including that of St Clare, to hide in!
More later.

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