The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







The Lower and Upper Church from the lower piazza
The Lower and Upper Church from the lower piazza

Assisi (Latin: Asisium) is a town and episcopal see on the western flank of Mt. Subasio in Perugia province in the Italian region of Umbria. It was the birthplace of St. Francis (Francesco Bernadone), who founded the Franciscan religious order here in 1208, and St. Clare (Chiara d'Offreducci), the founder of the Poor Clares. In the 19th century another saint was born in Assisi, Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was baptised in the same font in which St. Francis himself had been baptised.

According to the 2003 census, the township (comune) numbers 25,600 inhabitants over an area of about 187 kmē; the city proper has a population of around 5,500.

The Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi (St Francis) is a World Heritage Site. The Franciscan monastery and the lower and upper church (Basilica inferiore e superiore) of St Francis were begun immediately after his canonization in 1228, and completed 1253. The lower church has frescos by Cimabue and Giotto' in the Upper church are frescos of scenes in the life of St Francis by Giotto and his circle.

October 1986 and January 2002 Pope John Paul II gathered in Assisi with the leaders of the great world confessions to pray for peace.

On September 26, 1997 Assisi was struck by an earthquake which caused four fatalities. The Basilica was badly damaged (part of the vault collapsed, carrying with it a fresco by Cimabue), and was closed for two years for restoration.

Other churches:

  • S. Maria Maggiore, the earliest extant church
  • The Cathedral (S. Rufino), has a Romanesque façade with three rose-windows and a 16th century interior; part of it is built on a Roman cistern.
  • S. Chiara (St Clare) with its massive lateral buttresses, rose-window, and simple Gothic interior, begun in 1257, contains the tomb of the saint and 13th-century frescoes and pictures.
  • S. Maria degli Angeli, housing the Porziuncola.

The town is dominated by the medieval castle, called "Rocca Maggiore", built by Cardinal Albornoz (1367) and added by Popes Pius II and Paul III

Assisi Embroidery is a form of counted-thread embroidery which has been practised in Assisi from the 13th century.


Last updated: 05-21-2005 04:50:01