The Basilica of St Francis of Assisi is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Italy and is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of the Franciscan Order. Assisi is where St Francis was born and died. The foundation stone of the basilica was laid by Pope Gregory IX on July 16th 1228 following the canonization of St Francis. The building has been built where the saint himself chose to be buried into the side of a hill which was famous in the Middle Ages as the ‘Hill of Hell’ and was a place used for executions, and is made up of two churches, the Upper church and the Lower church and a crypt where the remains of St Francis are interred. The Basilica churches are decorated with frescoes painted by many late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools. There are works by Giotto, Simone Martini and Lorenzetti such as the “Madonna with Angels and St. Francis” and the “Five Saints”, the “Episodes of the Life and the Passion of Christ”, the “Madonna and Saints” and the “Stigmata of St. Francis, the “Life of Saint Martin” and “Saints and Stories of the Madonna”.
St Francis of Assisi
St Francis was born around 1181, his father was a wealthy cloth merchant who wanted his son to follow him into the business but the young Francis had other ideas and loved to drink and party with his friends. During a battle between Assisi and Perugia Francis was taken prisoner and spent a year in jail awaiting a ransom to be paid by his father. It was during this imprisonment that Francis received visions and messages from God who told him to live a life of poverty and repair the Christian Church. His reputation for his goodness spread wide and later in his life he received the Stigmata, marks of Christ’s wounds when he was crucified. Francis died on October 3rd 1226 and was canonised as a saint on July 16th 1228.
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