Assisi is a place that so many of us dream about visiting----and sometimes those dreams come true.
We arrived--train strike and all--dropped our stuff at the hotel, and immediately went to the Basilica of St. Francis----luckily it was late in the afternoon, which means that the day-tripper tourists were in the process of leaving. Even Assisi is chaotic when full of tourists---esp. tourists who aren't religious and treat it as a tourist site instead of a holy site.
We stayed for quite some time---and spent a lot of it in the crypt praying in front of the tomb of St. Francis---one of the most prayerful and peaceful places in Assisi---until the tourists come in and ignore the signs that say "Silence" in every possible language.
We left the Basilica and walked up to Santa Chiara---the Basilica of St. Clare. Her relics lie in a crypt on the lower level---what you actually see is a wax figure in a Franciscan habit. The "real" relics are visible only to the sisters who live in community there---but the cute distraction was the nun who was clearly visible behind St. Clare, taking flash photos of the "real" relics. She kept taking photos, and then ducking down. I didn't catch her in the act with my camera. And if you want to see the 'real' relics, you can ask Google to show you!
The most prayerful place in Santa Chiara is the small chapel where the original San Damiano cross hangs. This is the cross that spoke to St. Francis, telling him to rebuild the church. We actually spent approx. 5 mins alone in the chapel, with the quiet, the solitude, and the San Damiano cross---until the peace was interrupted by a large group of tourists from an Eastern European country, let by a very loud priest who ignored the big "Silence" sign---he started doing loud tour guide stuff, then started loud prayers, then they started singing a hymn. We left as quickly as we could and noticed that the basilica staff was visibly concerned with the noise---not sure what they did about it. I love singing in church, and I love most hymns---but this wasn't the time or place. As it turns out----they seemed to follow us everywhere!
But, we were in Assisi----so, pace e bene.
1. Assisi Train station
2. A street in Assisi
3. Basilica of St. Francis
4. Fresco of St. Francis--lower Basilica (attributed to Cimabue and one of the oldest images of Francis)
5. Mary Magdalene chapel--lower Basilica
6. St. Francis' tomb
7. San Damiano cross at Santa Chiara
8. Relics of St Clare