A quick train ride this Saturday morning landed us in Assisi. Well, kind of a quick ride. We got a hefty fine when the Trenitalia Controller (evil ticket nazi) informed us we didn’t validate our ticket (thought we had). Ouch. Oh, well. At least she didn’t scream at us like the next folk she fined.
Nick was especially excited about this place. Approaching the town by train is unlike any other city we’ve been to. It’s white and pink stone (which Assisi is famous for) square buildings jut out of the hilltop in a lego-like manner. We stopped in a small pizzeria at the base of the hill for a quick bite before climbing up the steep hill to the town. Strangely, the pizzeria didn’t have any pizza. But it did have a whole leg of prosciutto crudo. So we asked the shop owner for a panino, to which he stuffed a crusty (in a good way) roll with the freshly shaved meat and a hunk of amazing cheese. Best 3Euro panino yet!
The basilica of St. Francis might be the most beautiful I’ve ever been in, and being in Italy, we’ve been in a bazillion basilicas. It’s blue and green sky ceilings dotted with gold stars is unique, and the church as a whole feels less done-up. More art and frescoes, less gold and marble. We slowly made our way through, appreciating the frescoed scenes. I most like the one at the entrance beside a painting of the saint himself saying something to the effect of “Slow down and be joyful, pilgrim. You’ve reached the Hill of Paradise.”
We eventually made our way below to where St. Francis is buried under the church. He was buried in this spot in secret, to protect his body from the relic hunt in Catholicism’s hayday. Then the church was built on the spot to honor him. And his friends are buried all around him. I like that.
Quick recap of St. Francis: born to wealth in the time of the Crusades, he had a spiritual experience, renounced his riches to live a simple life where he taught peace with God, peace with man and peace with nature. It’s just kind of a bummer that with that kind of message he is used as a tourist trap, but at least that lets me see it with my own eyes!
Here’s a simplified version of his Canticle of the Sun. I can appreciate this, especially his nod to death. Like the church built in his honor, this prayer feels raw and for real life.
Good Lord, all your creatures bring praise to you!
Praise for Brother Sun, who brings the day. His radiance reminds us of you
Praise for Sister Moon and the stars precious and beautiful.
Praise for Brother Wind, and for clouds and storms, and rain that sustains us.
Praise for Sister Water; she is useful and humble, precious and pure.
Praise for Brother Fire who cheers us at night.
Praise for our sister, Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us.
Praise for all those who forgive for love of you;
Praise for our sister, Bodily Death, from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Happy are those who endure in peace, for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.