Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My Virtual Visit to Assisi

The Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

The Tomb of St. Francis of Assisi. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Nathaniel and Emma's tour group is in Assisi through June 30. The Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is one of many wonderful places they will visit. Luckily for me, there are many, many inspiring photos available of the exterior and interior of this holy place. I was fascinated to learn from the Sacred Destinations site that

"in 1818, the tomb of St. Francis was rediscovered beneath the high altar, after lying hidden for almost 600 years. When the coffin was opened, Francis' skeleton was found fully intact. This is very rare for such a popular medieval saint - had his relics not been hidden, bits of them almost certainly would have found their way into shrines across Europe.

A new crypt was built around the burial place, first in a neo-Classical style, then in a simpler neo-Romanesque style. Thus modern pilgrims are able to approach the very tomb of St. Francis, which no medieval pilgrims were ever able to do."

That bit of news about modern pilgrims was very encouraging to me! So often we are told the opposite--that medieval people could enjoy some inspiring sight, but it has since been destroyed or is otherwise inaccessible.

I would love especially to visit the Chapter House which opens off of the Lower Church. All kinds of relics associated with St. Francis are kept there. The Sacred Destinations site lists these:

•moth-eaten, patchwork grey tunic worn by St. Francis
•white tunic worn during the last year of his life
hairshirt worn by St. Francis for penance
•strip of leather chamois that wrapped the stigmata wound in his side
•sandals made by St. Clare and worn by St. Francis when he was sick
•linen cloths given by a noble lady in Rome and used to wipe the saint's brow on his deathbed
•chalice used by St. Francis when he assisted in the Eucharist as a deacon
•ivory horn given to Francis from the Sultan of Egypt, Malek el Kamel
•the original Franciscan Rule of 1223 approved by Pope Honorius III, which marked the founding of the Franciscan order
•Blessing to Brother Leo written in St. Francis' own hand

We have a large St. Francis plaque in the dressing area of our hall bathroom and a St. Francis statue in the bird bath on our front walkway. I'm so excited to think of how much more deeply Nathaniel and Emma will appreciate this saint when they view these reminders of him upon their return home.

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