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Assisi, Italy: Street Scenes from St. Francis' Birthplace

Updated on November 8, 2014

Welcome to Assisi

Source

Birthplace of St. Francis

St. Francis, St. Clare, pilgrims and tourists equal great photography opportunities. One of my favorite ways to make photos is to wander the streets with camera securely and unobtrusively in hand. I poked around Assisi from the Basilicas of St. Francis and St. Clare to the small shops on the narrow streets of this ancient hillside town. My approach worked as I upheld my children's favorite nickname for me - "pokemom." Against a melodic background of Italian chatter - there is very little English spoken in Assisi - I enjoyed my free time and made some wonderful photographic memories. Two happenings stand out in this first trip to Italy and Assisi - October is olive riprening time in the region of Umbria and November 1 is All Saints Day, a Roman Catholic Feast Day and national Italian holiday - both lead to more people and festive airs in the street.

All photos and their derivations are mine - copyright: Georgene A. Bramlage. Ask for permission before copying.

A Guide to St. Francis Basilica Frescos

Assisi: The Frescoes in the Basilica of St. Francis
Assisi: The Frescoes in the Basilica of St. Francis

The frescos in the upper Basilicsa of St. Francis are superb. However, a good guide is always handy to understand what they portray and mean.

 

A Shrine for St. Francis

The Basilica di San Francesco (Basilica of Saint Francis) is built into the western side of the town of Assisi. Francis wanted, upon his death, to be buried here where criminals were executed outside the walls. Pope Gregory IX, Francis' companion Brother Elias and the first Franciscan Minister General, Giovanni Parenti, decided to build the Basilica on this spot forcing city authorities to move the location of the executions.

The Basilica is composed of an upper church and a lower church. Both upper and lower parts are decorated with frescoes by noted late medieval painters such as Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti and Pietro Cavallini. Construction of the the Basilica began in 1228. Francis' remains, on Pentecost 25 May 1230, were moved in a solemn procession to the Lower Basilica from its temporary burial place. Pope Innocent IV consecrated the upper and lower Basilicas in 1253.

The Basilica of St. Francis, on the outer west part of Assisi and the Basilica of Saint Clare (Basilica di Santa Chiara) almost at the eastern wall grasp Assisi almost as would bookends or the arms of a loving parent. The distance between them is slightly over one half of a mile and takes between 15 to 30 minutes.

Assisi a small town or comune of Italy, province of Perugia, Umbria region, west side of Monte Subasio.

A markerBirthplace of Francis and Clare of Assisi -
Assisi, Italy
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My Favorite Sculpture near St. Francis Upper Basilica - Great juxtaposition between these despondent figures and the cathedral built to honor a saint.

Francis as he realizes his future is not in being a knight.  Both figure and horse show torment over the impending decision.  My interpretation!
Francis as he realizes his future is not in being a knight. Both figure and horse show torment over the impending decision. My interpretation! | Source

A Good Lightweight Guidebook to Assisi

Every Pilgrim's Guide to Assisi
Every Pilgrim's Guide to Assisi

A lightweight guidebook is essential to seeing and understanding the sacred places of Assisi. This particular one dates back about five years, so ifyou use it check opening times, regulations, etc.

 

FYI - St. Francis, Assisi, Prayer, my Camera and Me

I began looking for a trip to Assisi in early summer of 2013. My inquiries kept leading me back to the FRANCISCAN PILGRIMAGE PROGRAMS. I didn't know very much about pilgrimages when I started out, but the information said I'd find out more about Francis, eat simple meals and stay in uncomplicated lodging. Just what I was after. So, I became a pilgrim following in Francis' footsteps for 12 days with 24 others with time to reflect and make photos. I plan on traveling back to Assisi.

Francis from Assisi: The Playboy Who Became a Saint

Francis' Boyhood Home

Preserved Door which once stood as part of Francis' boyhood home.
Preserved Door which once stood as part of Francis' boyhood home. | Source

Francis and Assisi for the Armchair Traveler

Francis of Assisi: A Revolutionary Life
Francis of Assisi: A Revolutionary Life

One of my favorites books about Francis. The author does a fine of describing the life of Francis either though he came to know Francis late in his personal and literary life.

 

Scenes of Assisi which show the leisurely pace of life in this Umbrian town - Click on images for larger views.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A sweet chestnut vendor who set up his stand with charcoal brazier  in the same place on the Piazza di Commune (town square) every day.One of many small neighborhood coffee or snack shops which radiated conviviality into the area.Early morning at a coffee bar with outside seating.  Some open as early as 6am to serve morning regulars.Display of typical tourist items outside a small souvenir shop near the Piazza di Commune (town square).A typical hilltown police vehicle - a Fiat - made navigating the narrow twisting streets of Assisi doable.A coffee bar and pastry shop in business since 1969.  Its windows and displays entice wnderings into the shop to peer at the goodies.An enticing display of luscious pasties and cookies inside a typical bakery.Students enjoying riposo on the retaining wall near the main entrance to St. Francis upper Basilica.A Franciscan nun lighting a vigil candle at the shrine near the entrance of San Damiano.Sculptures of Francis' mother Pica de Bourlemont and father Pietro di Bernardone near the entrance of Chiesa Nuova church, built over their home.
A sweet chestnut vendor who set up his stand with charcoal brazier  in the same place on the Piazza di Commune (town square) every day.
A sweet chestnut vendor who set up his stand with charcoal brazier in the same place on the Piazza di Commune (town square) every day. | Source
One of many small neighborhood coffee or snack shops which radiated conviviality into the area.
One of many small neighborhood coffee or snack shops which radiated conviviality into the area. | Source
Early morning at a coffee bar with outside seating.  Some open as early as 6am to serve morning regulars.
Early morning at a coffee bar with outside seating. Some open as early as 6am to serve morning regulars. | Source
Display of typical tourist items outside a small souvenir shop near the Piazza di Commune (town square).
Display of typical tourist items outside a small souvenir shop near the Piazza di Commune (town square). | Source
A typical hilltown police vehicle - a Fiat - made navigating the narrow twisting streets of Assisi doable.
A typical hilltown police vehicle - a Fiat - made navigating the narrow twisting streets of Assisi doable. | Source
A coffee bar and pastry shop in business since 1969.  Its windows and displays entice wnderings into the shop to peer at the goodies.
A coffee bar and pastry shop in business since 1969. Its windows and displays entice wnderings into the shop to peer at the goodies. | Source
An enticing display of luscious pasties and cookies inside a typical bakery.
An enticing display of luscious pasties and cookies inside a typical bakery. | Source
Students enjoying riposo on the retaining wall near the main entrance to St. Francis upper Basilica.
Students enjoying riposo on the retaining wall near the main entrance to St. Francis upper Basilica. | Source
A Franciscan nun lighting a vigil candle at the shrine near the entrance of San Damiano.
A Franciscan nun lighting a vigil candle at the shrine near the entrance of San Damiano. | Source
Sculptures of Francis' mother Pica de Bourlemont and father Pietro di Bernardone near the entrance of Chiesa Nuova church, built over their home.
Sculptures of Francis' mother Pica de Bourlemont and father Pietro di Bernardone near the entrance of Chiesa Nuova church, built over their home. | Source
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis (Dover Thrift Editions)
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis (Dover Thrift Editions)

Here is a retelling of stories - some true and others traditional - dear to most people who know Francis.

 

My Favorite Street Shrine

This arrangment makes the bystander lean down and into the shrine until face-to-face with Francis.
This arrangment makes the bystander lean down and into the shrine until face-to-face with Francis. | Source

Street Shrines in Assisi - - click on images for larger views. These shrines have no significant artistic value except to the viewer. It's great, however, to w

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Virgin with the Child Jesus.  She is hold a white lily which is a symbol for purity.The whole end of this wall is occupied by this shrine and the plants that surround it.The larger tile is an image of a monk  - Francis - with deer.  The smaller, blue and white, appears to be of swallows.Modern rendition of the nativity with St. Frances in attendance.A large fresco-type shrine at the entrance to an upper level apartment.  Not the way the shoe shop is built into all the usable space.A terra cotta-type plaque of Madonna and child attached to a bricked up door next to a small light.A modern statue of the Virgin in a niche over the enterance to The Fransican Sisters of the Atonement, St. Anthony Guest House - the American Sisters.A terra cotta plaque set within a recessed niche of limestone cobbles.
The Virgin with the Child Jesus.  She is hold a white lily which is a symbol for purity.
The Virgin with the Child Jesus. She is hold a white lily which is a symbol for purity. | Source
The whole end of this wall is occupied by this shrine and the plants that surround it.
The whole end of this wall is occupied by this shrine and the plants that surround it. | Source
The larger tile is an image of a monk  - Francis - with deer.  The smaller, blue and white, appears to be of swallows.
The larger tile is an image of a monk - Francis - with deer. The smaller, blue and white, appears to be of swallows. | Source
Modern rendition of the nativity with St. Frances in attendance.
Modern rendition of the nativity with St. Frances in attendance. | Source
A large fresco-type shrine at the entrance to an upper level apartment.  Not the way the shoe shop is built into all the usable space.
A large fresco-type shrine at the entrance to an upper level apartment. Not the way the shoe shop is built into all the usable space. | Source
A terra cotta-type plaque of Madonna and child attached to a bricked up door next to a small light.
A terra cotta-type plaque of Madonna and child attached to a bricked up door next to a small light. | Source
A modern statue of the Virgin in a niche over the enterance to The Fransican Sisters of the Atonement, St. Anthony Guest House - the American Sisters.
A modern statue of the Virgin in a niche over the enterance to The Fransican Sisters of the Atonement, St. Anthony Guest House - the American Sisters. | Source
A terra cotta plaque set within a recessed niche of limestone cobbles.
A terra cotta plaque set within a recessed niche of limestone cobbles. | Source

An Interesting Sculture Without a Name - Located in a garden of David Austin "Assisi" roses outside the Porta Nuova by the Via Borgo Aretino overlook.

Hampered by the language barrier, we could only learn that this saint was "Umberto."  Unfortunately, I could find no information about the symbolsim.
Hampered by the language barrier, we could only learn that this saint was "Umberto." Unfortunately, I could find no information about the symbolsim. | Source

I'd love to hear what you thought about this article... Should there be more photos or more words? What's your pleasure?

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    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
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      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 3 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @smine27: Hi! Thanks so much for stopping by, reading and commenting on this lens. I appreciate all three! Yes, Assisi would be a good location for a bucket list trip.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      What a beautiful place that I must place into my bucket list.

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
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      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 3 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @Merrci: Assisi is a wonderful blend of old and new. And it is not necessarily a haven for English-speaking tourists...maybe because it is off the beaten track. It is, however, a destination for Italian tourists. Thanks so much for taking timeto stop by and comment on this lens! I appreciate it.

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
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      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 3 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @Pam Irie: Hi! Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. That means a great deal to me. I am so glad you liked the lens...it was a fun one to do.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Beautiful photos! Makes me want to make the trip. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 3 years ago from Land of Aloha

      You have a well balanced lens between the photos and text. Lovely pictures!

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
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      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 3 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @Lynn Klobuchar: Lynn, Thanks for stopping by one of my favorite lenses. I can almost feel the sun on my back when I look at these photos. Assisi has managed a good blending of the old and the new; it is a lovely place to explore and relax.

    • Lynn Klobuchar profile image

      Lynn Klobuchar 3 years ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota

      What an interesting way to travel. Beautiful photos. It is remarkable how European towns and cities merge the old and the new. Thanks for sharing.

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
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      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 3 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @esmonaco: Hi Sam! Thanks so much for stopping by to read my first lens about Assisi and taking the time to comment. I do appreciate the fact that you think my photos are amazing. Thanks so much!

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 3 years ago from Lakewood New York

      I enjoyed reading your lens and your photos are Amazing!!! Thanks

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 3 years ago

      Beautiful photographs in your lens but I enjoyed your words also.

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      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 3 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @Charito1962: It is a beautiful and enlightening place to visit. Perhaps one day things will work ot so that you can visit Assisi. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting on my lens.

    • Charito1962 profile image

      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Wish I could visit this homeland of St. Francis someday. - Ms. Charito from the Philippines

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      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 4 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @sousababy: Hi Rosemary,

      Thanks so much for stopping by my first Assisi lens and your gracious comments. I deeply appreciate both. Please be on the lookout for a few more lens in the same series. This is one way I have to get my mind around this wonderful experience and all that I learned and felt.

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 4 years ago

      Your photographs are composed beautifully and thoughtfully. No extra words needed.

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      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 4 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @SusanDeppner: Susan, Thanks for stopping by and leaving such gracious comments. It is amazing how many slowly unfolding ideas for lenses have come from this trip. Stay turned...there will be more as I continue to organize both my photos and my thoughts.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Beautiful pictures and what an amazing trip! I'd love to read more about where you stayed, your simple meals, and even your pilgrim companions. Thanks for sharing!