Assisi TourismIntra Tupino e l'acqua che discende
del colle eletto dal beato Ubaldo,
fertile costa d'alto monte pende,
onde Perugia sente freddo e caldo
da Porta Sole; e di rietro le piange
per grave giogo Nocera con Gualdo.
Di questa costa, là dov'ella frange
più sua rattezza, nacque al mondo un sole,
come fa questo talvolta di Gange.
Però chi d'esso loco fa parole,
non dica Ascesi, ché direbbe corto,
ma Orïente, se proprio dir vuole.
Paradiso Canto XI
[ “A fertile slope falls from a high mountain, between the Tupino and the Chiascio, the stream that drops from the hill chosen by the blessed Ubaldo, a slope from which Perugia feels the cold and heat, through the eastern gate of Porta Sole, and behind it the towns of Nocera and Gualdo bemoan the Angevin’s heavy yoke. From this slope, where it becomes least steep, a Sun was born into this world, even as our sun rises from the Ganges. So that whoever speaks of that place, let him not say Ascesi, I have ascended, which is inadequate, but Oriente, if he wants to name it correctly.” (trans. A.S. Kline, 2000)]
With these words Dante described Assisi and St. Francis, patron of Umbria and Italy. Together with St. Chiara, Francis is the symbol of the renunciation of earthly possessions in favor of a life of poverty and charity, love for humanity and animals, of sanctity and excellence. Thousands of tourists and pilgrims from all over the world come to Assisi every year to discover the City of Peace and visit the places where St. Francis lived, prayed and died.
Let’s begin with the Basilica of St. Francis with its beautiful frescoes by Cimabue:
“Two years hadn’t passed since the death of St. Francis when Brother Elias, his successor and head of the Order, received a piece of land as a gift, situated outside the Western gate of Assisi, a steep and rocky place on Mount Subasio where criminals were hanged and for this called “Hill of Hell.” On that damned piece of land the enormous church was built which would house the body of the great saint.” (www.visitassisi.it)
The Sanctuary of St. Damian, where we find the crucifix which spoke to Francis; the Eremo delle Carceri, where Francis and his followers withdrew in prayer; and the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, where Francis died on October 3, 1226 are other places which testify to his mystic life. Many festivals and religious traditions have evolved which are bound to the figure of St. Francis, such as the Franciscan Celebrations on Oct. 4, during which each year a different region offers its own olive oil to St. Francis; the Pardon of Assisi on Aug. 2 and Holy Week before Easter, during which liturgical ceremonies such as the Scavigliazione del Giovedì Santo.
Assisi, however, is not of merely religious interest: historical pageants like the Calendimaggio and the Palio of St. Ruffino gather many visitors each year from every part of Italy and the world.
ASSISI: UNESCO WORLD HISTORICAL SITE
Assisi, the Basilicas of San Francesco and Santa Maria degli Angeli, as well as other Franciscan sites are considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The listing, which took place in 2000, is based on the recognition of Assisi’s unique “cultural landscape” composed of material and nonmaterial assets. Five criteria have been stipulated:
- Assisi represents a body of masterpieces of the human creative genius such as the Basilica of St. Francis, a touchstone of European and world history;
- the spreading of the artistic and spiritual message of the Franciscan Order has contributed to the development of art and architecture throughout the world;
- Assisi represents a unique example of continuity of a holy city in its natural surroundings from its UmbroRoman and medieval origins to our day, represented by its cultural landscape, religious bodies,communication strategies and traditional use of its territory;
- the Basilica of St. Francis is an exceptional example of an architectural structure which has greatly influenced the development of art and architecture alike;
- Assisi, birthplace of the Franciscan Order, has been closely associated since medieval times with the propagation of the Franciscan cult throughout the world, broadcasting a universal message of peace and tolerance.