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Best Churches to Visit in Assisi, Italy

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

No trip to the small medieval town of Assisi is complete without seeing the many churches, large and small, located in this city of 25,000 residents.

The town is situated upon a hill in the Umbria region right in the heart of Italy. It is most known for being St. Francis’ birthplace, a man renowned for his artistic, historical, and religious significance. The city is quite small so exploring on foot is not challenging. There are walking tours and self-guided tours available.

Despite the fact that all the churches and sanctuaries in Assisi are open for tourist visitation, there are certain exceptions and rules that need to be followed. Hours for visiting will vary from one to the next, but all of them forbid tourist visits during Sunday morning mass or services. Additionally, some of these have rather strict dress codes so it is wise to check in advance so that you are not denied admission.

  • Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi

Franciscan monastery named after St. Francis and is also a World Heritage Site. It is also the church where St. Francis was canonized in 1228. There is a lower and an upper church with artwork on display in both. The lower church features artwork by two renowned Medieval artists, Cimabue and Giotto, while the upper church features frescos reflecting the life of St. Francis. In September of 1997, the Basilica was severely damaged by an earthquake and was closed two years while it was undergoing restoration activities.

  • Basilica of Santa Chiara

Named after Saint Clare, the structure features massive lateral buttresses, the famous “Rose Window”, and has a simple Gothic interior. St. Clare’s tomb is located here as well as some 13th century frescoes and assorted paintings.

  • Cathedral of San Rufino

Also known as the Assisi Cathedral, it was named after Saint Rufinus of Assisi. Part of this structure was originally constructed on what was once a Roman cistern. It features a 16th century interior, a Romanesque façade, and three rose windows.

  • Eremo delle Carceri

Situated in a canyon above the town of Assisi, this small monastery was a favorite retreat of St. Francis. Supposedly, he would preach to the birds that nested there as he was resting in the garden.

  • Santo Stefano (Assisi)

One of the oldest churches built in Assisi. It has no ornate designing but simple stonemasons who built a rustic memento of their faith. This beautiful 12th century Romanesque church is surrounded by fig, walnut and cypress trees which were considered to be outside the town walls in olden days. According to legends, the bells of this church started ringing miraculously the day St. Francis died, on 3rd October 1226.

  • Santa Maria Maggiore

The church was named after St. Mary the Greater and is the oldest church still in existence in the city.

There are several other smaller churches and monasteries in the surrounding area worth seeing as well. However, the ones listed above should be included in anyone’s vacation itinerary.

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Photo of the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, Italy, by Il Noceto Farm House.

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About the author

Venere Travel Blog writer anita choudhary

Anita Choudhary is a freelance writer and travel blogger based in New Delhi, India. She loves to travel and has traveled extensively in India. Exploring new places, reading and writing are her hobbies.

2 responses to “Best Churches to Visit in Assisi, Italy”

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  1. Mike Coyle says:
    September 11th, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Assisi is amazing, one of the best places I have visited in Italy.
    The Basilica is probably the best free art gallery in the world, with frescoes from the great master himself, Giotto. Breathtaking.
    Don’t miss visiting the ‘Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli’ and the ‘Porziuncula’ (small chapel) inside, just down the hill (about a mile) from Assisi. It was here the St Francis both recognized his vocation and died.

  2. kerala says:
    September 12th, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    its great information. all these churches have their on tales.


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