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Monday, October 25, 2010

Assissi -- Tales from the Crypt

 Basilica of St. Francis

The town of Assissi in Umbria, the destination of millions of pilgrims every year, is the burial place of Italy's patron saint, St. Francis.  In a country that revers its saints, Francis is top dog, an irony that I'm sure would not be lost on this humble man who devoted his life to poverty, helping others, and celebrating Earth's environment.  Construction on the basilica above was begun two years after St. Francis's death in 1226 and was finished within years.  There are two churches, a lower Romanesque cathedral that was built first and then a Gothic upper church that sits on top of the first that was built fifty years later.

I was only able to visit the lower basilica as the top was closed for a private religious function for the day.  The lower church is dimly lit by candles with all the walls and ceilings painted by Giotti and his colleagues.  The body of St. Francis is in a crypt below the main altar through which a constant stream of people wends. 

 I've always loved these midnight blue ceilings with the gold stars painted on them (stars barely visible here).  A friend did this in his formal victorian dining room and it looks fantastic.

It must have been visits to places like this that inspired Morris to go home and paint his ceilings and walls.

Main altar with its rustic painted wooden cross.