Things to see in Assisi







Scrivici/write to us

Art and Culture in Italy     Information about Italy   Accommodation in Italy   Hotels in Italy (1 to 5 Stars)  

Things to see in Assisi                               (Back to Assisi main information page)

Basilica di San Francesco

Pilgrims and art lovers make straight for the Basilica di San Francesco (daily 6.30am-7.30pm; free), one of the most overwhelming collections of art outside a gallery anywhere in the world. Started in 1228, two years after the saint's death, and financed by donations from all over Europe.

Here we can see Giotto and the Cavallini frescos. The complicated floor plan and the low-lit vaults were intended to create a meditative introspection - an effect added to by brown-robed monks and a ban on photography. Francis lies under the floor in a crypt only brought to light in 1818 after 52 days of digging. He was hidden after his funeral for safekeeping, and nowadays endures almost continuous Masses.

Frescoes cover almost every available space. Stilted early works by anonymous painters influenced by the Byzantines sit alongside Roman painters such as Cavellini, who with Cimabue pioneered the move from mosaic to naturalism and the "new" medium of fresco, the students from the Sienese School, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti , whose paintings are the ones to make a real point of seeing.  

Martini's frescoes are in the Cappella di San Martino (1322-26); every detail follows his drawings, adding up to a unified scheme that's unique in Italy.

Lorenzetti's works, dominated by a powerful Crucifixion, are in the transept to the left of the main altar. Vaults above the altar itself contain four magnificent frescoes, with colourful allegories of the virtues on which Francis founded his order: Poverty, Chastity and Obedience.

The big feature in the right transept is Cimabue's over-restored Madonna, Child and Angels with St Francis. The Upper Church, built to a light and airy Gothic plan shows Giotto?s dazzling frescoes on the life of St Francis. Francis Preaching to the Birds and Driving the Devils from Arezzo are just two of the famous scenes reproduced worldwide on cards and posters.

Interesting to see are the cloisters, accessible from the rear right-hand side of the Lower Church, and the Treasury reached via the apse of the Lower Church that contains a rich collection of paintings, reliquaries and general religious clutter given to the Franciscans over the centuries.

Basilica di Santa Chiara

Construction work on the church and adjacent convent of St Claire began in 1257, three years after the saint's death and a year after she was canonised.

The church dedicated to St Claire occupied the site of the church of San Giorgio, where St Francis had been buried before his remains were moved to the basilica in 1230. The wooden "Crucifix? in the Cappella del Crocifisso is alleged to have spoken to St Francis in San Damiano, ordering him to repair the church. Relics of St Francis and St Claire are kept behind the grate. The chapel contains a fresco by Puccio Capanna (1340-46): "Enthroned Madonna and Child with St Claire, St John the Baptist, the Archangel Michael and St Francis", as well as other frescoes of the school of Giotto and Lorenzetti.

The right hand transept contains a panel with the "Life of St Claire?, by the so-called Maestro di Santa Chiara (late 13th century), as well as frescoes depicting St Claire and Biblical scenes by an artist known as the Maestro Espressionista di Santa Chiara (first half of the 14th century). The "Crucifix?  has also been attributed to the Maestro di Santa Chiara (1280-90). The crypt was built between 1850 and 1872 and Restored in neo-gothic style in 1935, it houses the body of St Claire, discovered in 1850.

Rocca Maggiore

Records of this building date back to 1174, when it was erected as a German feudal castle.

The Emperor Frederick II of Swabia spent several years of his childhood here in the care of Conrad of Urslingen, and was baptised in Assisi at the age of three in 1197. In Conrad's absence, the people of Assisi rebelled and destroyed the castle.
The castle remained a ruin until 1367, when Cardinal Albornoz rebuilt the fortress and in 1458 Jacopo Piccinino, then lord of Assisi, erected the twelve-sided tower and the long curtain wall connecting the castle to the city.
In 1478 Pope Sixtus IV restored the castle's keep, while between 1535 and 1538 Pope Paul III built the round tower near the main gate.

Temple of Minerva

Built in the late Republican period in the 1st century BC, this temple was erected by the quatorvirates Gneus Cesius and Titus Cesius Priscus at their own expense. When a female statue was unearthed here it was thought the temple had been dedicated to Minerva, although the subsequent discovery of a votive plaque to Hercules makes it more likely that the temple had been dedicated to him.

In 1539 the inner sanctum of the temple was transformed into the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, with further alterations added in the Baroque style during the 17th century.

Palazzo Capitano del popolo

Built between 1212 and 1305, this was the first public building to be erected in Piazza del Comune.

The facade of the building contains the measures for silk, linen and wool, the outlines of bricks and roof tiles used in building.
Restoration work carried out in 1927 considerably altered the original appearance of the building

Roman Amphitheatre

Is in the town quarter of Porta Perlici, a town gate of the 12th century with a double inner arch and door-posts in Umbrian and Roman blocks. Here there are the remains of the structure of the Roman Amphitheatre of the 1st century A.D. A garden occupies the area of the former arena, while the only remain is a travertine arch.

 (Back to Assisi main information page)