Thursday, 24 November 2016

Umbria part 1


I used to be religious and I believed that there is a god. I thought there was a man above us, that decided what should happen and what not. And it never occurred to me that it could be a woman, or just an it. Who says it has to be a man? Or a woman? Or an it? Perhaps it is just the spirit of all of us, like a thought in a Universe, that leads us to believe what is right and what is wrong. 

Assisi is one of those places, where I had the feeling to make questions about the meaning of the universe. It made me think of Nelson Mandela. And Santa Teresa of Calcutta. I even thought of Princess Diana, due to her death of that very same year the Assisi earthquake took place. And of course of the protector of Italia: Saint Francis.  

Any place on earth where I have been, Assisi is the only one where the spiritual energy is so high that it reached even my sceptical me. 

The Basilica of San Francisco

Most people start their visit of Assisi from the Square of the Basilica of San Francisco. 
I headed to Basilica inferiore, where is to be admired major works of Giotto and Cimabue. The construction of the church stated just two years after Francisco's death in 1228. Following through stairs and along the monastery yard and book shop, rising up to the upper level to the basilica superiore the very first artwork is to seen those burned paintings on the wall. In the naval area is to admire the whole story of Saint Francis painted by Cimabue and continued later on by Giotto. The Basilica of San Francesco was celebrated by pope Innenzio IV in the year 1253.  This part of the Basilica and mainly the naval roof was badly damaged during the earthquake of 1997. 
If you don't believe in god, or do not want to experiment the spirituality of this place, visit Assisi then because its beauty and artwork in all those nearly 15 churches Assisi has to offer. 
Inside of the Basilica di San Francesco

Francis was born in a wealthy family. He got prisoned during the war against Perugia and met for the first time in life poor people and got it touch with poverty. It took one year after he was realized that he chose to give up his rich and wealthy life and follow the path of protector of poor and weaker ones, among animals he so much loved. He sold all his inheritage and became a monk. 
Among many followers he had, and I am not speaking about Twitter, there was one particular: Chiara. She had noble background and at very young age decided not to become just a wife of one man refusing marriage proposal her family had decided to her. As many young women in medieval time also Chiara was educated at home with good manners, handcraft work and elementary level of literature. She knew about Francisco and at age of 18 she escaped to get involved with Francisco's group that introduced her to the monastery of San Paolo delle Badesse.  
What I had was this incredibly strange feeling while visiting her crypt at the church of Santa Chiara di Assisi. The building of this church started in 1255. Just two years after the death of this poor child that saw life on earth only 60 years. Santa Chiara's tomb is to be visited in the lower level of the church and some reliques find their place there too. 

Some where in the half way of these two main churches I found this Minevra Temple. It was probably dedicated to Hercules with roman style of art proximately 30 AD. It was turned to Benedictine church San Donato in the medieval period and with an order of Pope Paolo III in 1539 it was changed to Catholic church Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Goethe has visited this church during his stay in Assisi. 

photo from wikipedia
Besides of churches that Assisi has, that are more than 10, I enjoy mostly of the medieval and renesance stile of architecture and figurative art, those church walls can offer. It is amazing how long these paintings have been for the pleasure of anyone willing to see them. 
Assisi offers spiritual peace and quietness for more than just one day. My advice is to take few days time to visit Assisi properly and feel the tranquillity that it leaves to visitors heart. 

Assisi is also a good place to taste the Umbrian cuisine. Umbrian bread has no salt in it and that comes from the Roman period when salt came from Rome and it was highly taxed. It is the perfect bread for the oil tasters, because it doesn't alternate the taste of olive oil. 
I had lunch in a vegan restaurant just near the main road and I was truly satisfied for the offer of the quantity of the products that were to mach animal free cuisine. 
Since I was in Assisi, and San Francisco is also the protector of animals, I felt I had no right to come here and eat meat. 

Assisi is not that easy to reach from cities near by as it may look like. First I needed to take the train and then walk few chilometers uphill. Or wait a bus. And walk uphill. Best way to visit Assisi and it churches is with a local guide. It has a history and markable quantity of architectural sites witch may pass unnoticed if not led to there with description and their particular artworks. 

uphill we go

Underneath of the town Assisi I visited this church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, at the same named village. It was build by the request of Pope Pio V in the 15th century. It holds inside a mall church, that appears to be the one what was given to Francis. The story tells also that in this littel church Fracis met Chiara at the night of her escape. It is an interesting place to visit due to it's totally different art style than the churches in Assisi. 

Feel free to ask an offer of tour-leader services to your group to visit Assisi, 
in GB, IT, FIN and NL

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