Walking in the historical footsteps of Saint Francis was awe inspiring. Times were difficult and Francis was particularly strict upon himself so it wasn’t what I would have immediately expected.
I already wrote a brief summary of his life earlier on my blog. We visited Italy to feel the places he had touched and reconnect with the energy and spirit of Saint Francis.
The first place we visited was actually his last place on earth and certainly one of the most profound. Santa Maria Degli Angeli is less visited than Assisi but we all felt it was many times more powerful. Inside this grand and beautiful chapel is a small simple but quaint chapel. This small chapel is the original church that Saint Francis rebuilt himself. It is also probably the place where Claire came in the middle of the night to declare herself to God, to cut her hair and her entry to become a nun. The love that emanated from this little chapel was incredible. Many reported a profound feeling of the essence of Claire and Francis and their endless love for each other. To think that Francis and his first 12 men stood her and prayed her and that we could come inside and pray today. As we sat in the pews it was hard to weep just from the sheer connection of love and joy that is present in spirit. I believe the healing that was in that little tiny church is some of the most profound in the world today.
Behind this chapel is a little shrine encompassing the area that Francis actually transitioned to Heaven. This little area too was incredible and the energy profound. One could imagine that if Francis’ spirit was in any one place it would be here.
Close to the Basilico is the Chapel of Saint Claire. Claire followed in the Francis tradition and founded the Saint Claires of the poor. Here lies his beloved Claire. Also in the chapel of saint Claire is the cross that Francis was praying to when he received the stigmata.
From there we went on to visit the bustling town of Assisi and the grand Basilico. And grand the Basilico is. Thousands of visitors a day must pack through this great church. This is clearly a pilgrim destination point. The Basilico itself was amazing. Grand and ornate paintings and everything guilded with gold. We were not supposed to snap photos and guards stood by as thousands of tourists were guided through. Beautiful, but I would not say it has the spiritual essence. I wondered how Saint Francis who strived his whole life against lavish possessions would think about this grand dedication to his life.
Downstairs however in the crypt however I was to feel a whole different energy. The crypt although equally lavishly decorated contained the loving and beautiful feeling one might have expected from the presence of Saint Francis. In the middle of the room is an incased alter where inside lies the resting place of the saint himself. Around the outside are the tombs of several of his original followers. As I approached the Tomb of Saint Francis himself, I found myself strangely overcome, dizzy and light headed with energy. I had to kneel at his side both to show respect and because I simply couldn’t stand up. The love and the caring that came from saint Francis’ tomb left me little doubt that his spirit was with us.
From there we went to Eremo. This was the place in the mountains above Assisi where Francis came to pray. There are several caves or Grottos where Francis spent time in meditation as well as his original followers. This is also thought to be the place that Francis returned to later in life to hide in seclusion and where he received the stigmata.
A very small chapel had been built there at the time of Francis and later a larger but still beautifully quaint chapel that now rambles into the hillsides.
What struck me was the shady paths and woodlands where Francis must have spent most of his time. Nature was all around and I could imagine him talking with the squirrels, birds and even the occasional wolf. He was known to have a special connection to animals and there are stories of the birds flying around him and talking to him. There is a legend of him talking to a wolf to tame him from hurting the people of a nearby town. You could imagine that he spend a lot of time here in nature. This was one of my favorite places of Saint Francis and I am sure one closest to his experience and his simple way of life that he strived to pass down.
I have a few Saint Francis items from Italy, blessed by the priests,
and the Holy water in Assisi, click here