The Basilica of St. Francis is Assisi’s main event. Maybe we were doing things backwards, but we spent most of our day winding our way down through the town without yet even having glimpsed the famous church.
There were many other churches, buildings, alleys, shops, and valley views to admire, and we were completely absorbed in the visual treasures that greeted us at every turn. Yes, there were tourists, but it was not overly crowded and we were not hindered by their presence. After all, I concede we were also tourists, although I hope not pesky.
With so many wonderful things to look at, we weren’t in a hurry to get to the bottom of our walk.
Looking up we were amazed by the rose window and over-the-door detail of the Cattedrale di San Rufino. This Romanesque church was inaugurated in 1253 by Pope Innocent IV. Built from rosy stone of Mt. Subasio, the church is distinctively pink, as are many of the buildings and pathways throughout Assisi.
After our lofty lunch on the terrace, we explored more of Piazza del Comune, once a Roman forum but now the hub of modern day life in Assisi. I was particularly intrigued with the Tempio di Minerva. A 2,000 year old facade is all that remains of the original Roman temple dedicated to the Goddess of Widsom, Minerva.
The current church, built over Minerva’s temple, is now dedicated to Mary, hence its name: Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (Saint Mary over Minerva). The interior glitters with Baroque excess.
Next to the Tempio di Minerva towers the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo. Built in 1282 as the home base of the city militia, it now houses the headquarters of the International Society of Franciscan Studies.
Remember that a Roman forum once occupied this piazza. Colorful inscriptions and designs decorating this wall and ceiling are evidence of that.