The grandiose, gorgeously embellished Basilica di San Francesco (Basilica of St. Francis) in Assisi is a rather incongruous memorial to a man who preached and lived a simple life of poverty, abstinence, and renunciation of worldly goods in search of greater spirituality.
The Basilica di San Francesco was built in 1230 by St. Francis' disciple and fellow-worker Brother Elia. For all his spiritual devotion, Elia remained much more worldly than Francis, and the popularity and staying power of the Franciscan order is credited in part to his marketing skills.
Brother Elia hid St. Francis' remains under the crypt in the new basilica to keep the rival Perugians from stealing the saintly relics. They were not rediscovered until the 19th century.
Much of the very impressive artwork inside the basilica was done by Cimabue around 1277 (Upper Church) and Giotto and his assistants in the 1300s (Lower Church).
Earthquakes in September 1997 rocked Umbria, damaging several churches in Assisi. The Basilica of St. Francis was the worst hit — part of the upper church ceiling in the upper church collapsed, killing four people, destroying frescoes by Cimabue and his followers, and damaging Giotto's Life of St. Francis frescoes — but it was also the first to be thoroughly restored, as it is owned by the Vatican.
By DonMartini @ 2008-02-02 06:35:05