Virtual Pilgrimage | Day 2 - Assisi
We began our day with Mass in the Church of San Damiano. It was while praying before the crucifix in this church in 1206 that Francis heard the Lord speak to him: "Go Francis and repair my house, which as you can see is falling into ruin." Francis rebuilt the walls and renewed this church building, but in time would come to know that he had been called by the Lord to renew the entire Church. The Church of San Damiano became the dwelling place of Clare and the other sisters called "Poor Clares". It was also in this church that Francis, in 1225, wrote the Canticle of the Creatures, a hymn of thanksgiving to God revealing Francis' brotherly love with all creation.
We took taxis up the hill from San Damiano to visit the Basilica of St. Clare which was built in 1257. The interior church is plain and bare with fragments of the original frescoes. A chapel contains the original crucifix which spoke to St. Francis at the beginning of his conversion. A crypt below the main altar holds the remains of St. Clare. Like Francis Clare was born into a noble family in Assisi. In 1212 she fled from her family to join Francis who cut her hair and gave her a Franciscan habit to wear as she devoted herself to a life of penance.
After the death of Francis his followers carried his body to the little church of St. George where it remained until the construction of the Basilica of St. Francis was completed some years later. In 1228 Francis was solemnly canonized and the following day Pope Gregory IX laid the first stone for the basilica. The plan of the building joined the ideals of poverty which Francis preached with the need to offer hospitality to the many pilgrims who would come to venerate the saint. The lower church leads to the crypt where Francis and four of his most devoted companions are buried. The upper church has been the gathering place for religious meetings and services throughout the centuries. The walls of the basilica are decorated with frescoes from the most famous artists of the 13th century including Cimabue and Giotto.
After lunch we visited Rivotorto and the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels. Rivotorto is s church built on the plain below Assisi over the "sacred hut" in which Francis and the friars first lived and where Francis dictated the first rule. Francis and the brothers decided here to live the Gospel radically and in complete poverty. The construction consisted of a hovel with a roof made out of branches. Around 1211 as the number of brothers grew, they moved to the Porziuncola a few kilometers away. The church of Rivotorto was built in 1854 over the ruins of a 16th century church destroyed in an earthquake.
Construction of Santa Maria degli Angeli began in 1569 but the church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1832. Rebuilt by the early 20th century, this large church houses the Porziuncola, the most precious treasure of Franciscan spirituality. It was in this small abandoned church where Francis finally understood his vocation. Here Francis held the first Chapters which were general meetings of the brothers and from the Porziuncola he sent his followers forth as missionaries of peace.
After visiting these five sanctuaries we returned to the hotel for dinner followed by our last evening strolls around this holy city of St. Francis.
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St. Mary's Parish ~ 20 Summer Street ~ Shrewsbury, MA
on Friday, October 7, 2016 at 1:06AM