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A spiritual (and architectural) trip around the places of the birth, growth and spread of the message of Francis from Assisi

The tour of the places of St. Francis of Assisi begins from the Chiesa Nuova, pointed out by the tradition as the ancient abode of Pietro of Bernardone, where Francis was born. It's a building reconstructed in 1615, a Greek cross with a greater dome and others four smaller. But the tradition also individualizes a second point the birth of Francis, a humble stall, in which Francis came to the light as perfect imitation of the life of Christ. Today, situated not too far from the Chiesa Nuova, is situated there the Oratory of St. Francis.

Another meaningful place is the magnificent Cattedrale of San Rufino, erect around 1029 from the bishop Ugone, above an erect church of Middle Ages created to guard the relics of San Rufino, a local martyr. The new and definitive setup of the church goes back to 1140, while the splendid rose window is dated 1163. The Cathedral of San Rufino is perhaps the highest realization of the Umbrian Romanesque. Here St. Francis was baptised, Santa Chiara and Federico II of Savoia, and more precisely in the baptismal Source of the aisle of right. In the sacristy it is contained a cave, in which Francis withdrew him in absorbed prayer, denominated Oratorical of St. Francis. Always from the right aisle it is possible to pass to the Cathedral Museum, in which it preserves, besides the precious frescos and notable mined codes, a 1470 Niccolò Alunno triptych, the "Madonna with Child and Saints."

Following then there's the place where St. Francis, in front of the people and the bishop Guido, stripped himself of every his possession, of family goods and his dresses, declaring the wish to follow only the Lord. Today lies there Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and the Vescovado (bishop's residence), inside which, in a room called Sala della Rinuncia, the episode is remembered. In the same Episcopalian Building St. Francis spent the last days of his life, where among a lot of sufferings he prepared himself in prayer for his death.

Close to the Plaza of the Commune there's the House of Bernardo of Quintavalle where occurred the episode narrated in the Fioretti and celebrated by Dante in the XI song of the Heaven, entirely devoted to St. Francis. Bernardo of Quintavalle, friend of Francis and rich owner, welcomed him in his house, and during the night, hearing him praying, he had a mystical striking, he abandoned his belongings, first among the others, joining St. Francis, still solitary in his preaching.

The Basilica of Santa Chiara is another place full of St. Francis' life, risen where once was the Church of San Giorgio, now integral part of the Basilica. Here Francis spent big part of his childhood learning reading and writing. Here remain his bare for four years after his death, from 1226 to 1230 and Santa Chiara too was buried there. After the death and the canonization of Chiara, in 1255, the actual Basilica was built.

In an isolated and solitary place, between the lowland and the hill on which Assisi is found, there is the Santuario of San Damiano, curled up and suggestive in a space that prepares to the prayer and the internal refolding. The church is very ancient, perhaps built in the IX century, but the first news about it are only around the beginning of 1030.

Francis went often in that humble and modest little church, especially in the periods of maximum bodily and spiritual suffering. Just during an intense period of prayer and prostration passed in the church, to the feet of a Byzantine painting of the Crucifix (now preserved in the Basilica of Santa Chiara), he felt from the lips of the Christ the invitation to " mend his house". Also Santa Chiara and his "Poor Dames" stopped for a long time at San Damiano, seeing born the nucleus of what will be the Second Franciscan Order. Always in San Damiano, Francis tried by the endless sufferings, composed the Hymn to the sun.

The very meaningful Santuario of Rivotorto, guard inside the Hovel of St. Francis, the humble hut where the saint of Assisi desultorily lived for at least two years, from 1209 to 1211. The Hovel was chosen by Francis as symbol of poorness and humility, but also as real logistic base of his own activity, since at brief distance there are two leprosariums, San Lazzaro in Arce and San Rufino in Arce, where Francis and his first followers offered their cares.

The turn finishes where everything begun, at the Porziuncola of Santa Maria degli Angeli, few kilometres far from Assisi, place of incomparable emotion, around which rise one of the most important and most visited Sanctuaries, the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. Here began the extraordinary adventure of the Franciscan Order and finished the terrestrial life of Francis of Assisi. The primitive church of the Porziuncola was already built in its simplicity in the IV century, when four pilgrims of return from Jerusalem stopped there. Francis in 1206 saw it falling and almost destroyed, when he elected it as his shelter and he put it standing again with his own hands, pointing it out as his internal place. From the Porziuncola was born the Franciscan movement, and from there numerous friars departed directed toward the world to spread the message of peace and love. Francis wanted to return in this same place when it felt the death near, since his days on the earth could finish where his spiritual life started. The Basilica of Santa Maria of the Angels was built within more than one hundred years, between 1569 and 1679, on project of the prestigious architect Galeazzo Alessi, to protect the inestimable treasure constituted by the Porziuncola, to preserve in the time this Franciscan symbol that belongs to the whole humanity.
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