Updated: Jan 21
Christmas break is here already, and while most of the Beda College has returned home or to their parishes mostly to the UK and Ireland, a few of us have styed behind at the college. Three of us decided to take a trip to Assisi for a couple of nights to see some of the Christmas traditions in the home of Christmas traditions starter St Francis.
This small city of about 28 thousand people on the side of the hill is jam packed with saints, churches, monasteries a cathedral a seminary and two basilicas to boot.
The most recent addition to the long list of saints is Blessed Carlo Acutis, his body is also on display in the church of St Mary Major. Blessed Carlo did not come from Assisi, but he loved travel and no where more than coming to Assisi, and I can see why.
We stayed in the town for two nights and had most of three days to look around, barley enough time. We got through a lot of churches celebrated mass, vespers said rosaries attended adoration, offered prayers, caught a concert, took a mini train tour around the town and sampled the local cuisine, the pizzas were divine and the deserts!
We arrived in Assisi from a two hour train ride northeast of Rome and from the station it was three and a half kilometers up hill to where we were staying in the old town of Assisi. Seth (the other seminarian from Australia, pictured in the for ground) and I took the opportunity to walk up from the station and take in the views as we approached the town.
Upon arriving in Assisi it was just on evening around five pm and the town was just beginning to light up. The Church of St Mary above Minerva, in the center of the town in the square.
The Cathedral of San Rufino, is the city cathedral, it is light up with the Annunciation. We stayed just up the road behind this church.
We just happened to catch a concert in the Cathedral that night so after dinner we went back and enjoyed some Christmas hymns performed by local musicians and choir helped by some talented imports.
The manger and the village in St Rufino's cathedral. The thing about Italian mangers you cannot stop at just the Holy Family and a few shepherds and cows you have to include the whole village.
An unidentified building lit up, one of many buildings around the town made for spectacular views from the town below and around the country side.
The 'train' we took around the city for a tour.
Basilica di Santa Chiara, (St. Clare). A bit overshadowed by St Francis but a remarkable saint in her own right. Very closely associated with St Francis, St Clare heard St Francis preaching a homily one Palm Sunday at mass and was convicted to live a life according to the gospel. She left home and entered a Benedictine community of sisters, her sister Catarina who took the name Agnes, joined her along with a few other women where they formed their own community called "poor ladies of San Damiano". It was initially under St Francis' rule until St Clare was able to take it on herself. After St Clare died in 1255, the order became known as the Order of St Clare. The basilica was finished in 1260.
St Clare's Basilica. Photos are not permitted inside the Church, but St Clare's body in in a tomb located under the main altar on a floor below along with a small museum of her.
This is a seen of the Visitation, with St Clare in the brown habit.
Santa Maria Maggiore church (St Mary Major), this is where Blessed Carlo Acutos' body is kept. it is just down from St Clare's Basilica. This is also the church where St Francis striped his cloths and handed them back to his father and began to live his life of poverty and service.
Inside St Mary Major church, with nativity under the altar, it is a very plan interior compared to some other churches.
The altar and nativity underneath.
Blessed Carlo in his resting place, situated in the right hand rear of St. Mary Major. Carlos died in 2006, and was beatified in 2020.
Carlo, (cut out of) myself and the blessed sacrament (cut out of).
Church of St Peter, is a Benedictine church, yes they were here before the Franciscans.
This is not an nativity set, but is of the epiphany, outside of St Peters in Assisi.
St Francis of Assisi Basilica, has three levels with a top main level a lower level and chapel beneath the lower level where the tomb of St Francis is. As with St Clare's basilica inside photos were not allowed but there are some amazing frescos in the second level chapel.
St Francis of Assisi, bottom entrance.
A Nativity in front of St Francis Basilica, looks like St Francis is guarding the sheep.
Nativity outside St Francis of Assisi Basilica.
The views over the Umbrian province from St Francis Basilica.
Another discovery in Assisi was this little church called Chieasa Nuova di San Francesco Convertito, or the New Church of St Francis Converted. It is the believed to be place where St Francis grew up in his Father house. The house or what remains of it are situated below the church. We were waling back past this church from evening mass in St Mary Major and happened to walk in when they were just starting a vespers prayer and stayed.
The main altar.
The street where we stayed in an Air B&B.
Assisi streets are quite narrow full of little shops and many fine crafts shops generations old from painters, leather crafts, wood workers and tailors.
Not all of our time was dedicated to prayer and pilgrimage, did leave ourselves time to sample the local produce.
This is the basilica of St Mary of the Angels, it is situated down on the plains near the train station, just before we caught the train back to Rome we made the stop at the basilica. That is Seth and Ben (seminarian, from India) in the square in front of the basilica.
Viewing the basilica from behind, it is an imposing structure that stands out on the landscape from all over the area.
Hey wait did someone build a house in the middle of the basilica?
No that is the small chapel that St Francis restored with his own hands after hearing a call from God to rebuild His church, St Francis found out later what God meant by His Church. The Chapel is in its original position and with the same name as the basilica dates back to the fourth century. Francis rebuilt it in the 12th century and the basilica was built over the top of it in the 17th century.
Ah, there is the main altar hiding behind the Chapel.
The small house where St Francis is said to have died on the side of the main alter chaple.
Time to go, wishing every one a very happy and joyful Christmas for you and your families from Italy from Anthony, Seth and Ben.