The Basilica of St. Francis — on TV

Our walk ended at the Basilica of St. Francis. But before we went in to savor the grand finale, we stopped at the grassy meadow that spread out on the upper level of the Basilica.

Curiously, it was lined with people watching a large stage lit by TV cameras. A piano and a drumset were set up and performers were milling about; a couple of the singers belted out a few songs, which we listened to before marching down to the lower level and main entrance of the basilica.

RAI TV was filming here today

The Carabinieri were protecting from below…not that there was anything to protect us from.

The basilica is actually two churches built over the other with a crypt in the basement. As the mother church of the Franciscan Order, it was begun in 1228 and took more than a century to complete. Its luminous interior boasts a staggering array of the most important frescoes in Europe; artists Giotto, Cimabue, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti each painted their legacy on the walls of this church.

A Franciscan brother heads inside

Down in the crypt, the remains of St. Francis are contained in a stone box above the altar. This lower area, darkened by dim lighting and candles, was crowded with pilgrims and worshipers who sat in wooden pews before the altar in the center of the space. Iron bars protect the altar where the sacred box of bones lies.

It is a pity because after our somewhat lengthy walking tour and finally arriving at the famous basilica, I can’t remember much of it aside from the tomb.

I walked around to the backside of the altar and noticed that little pieces of paper had been shoved through the iron bars — messages of one sort or another. Ripping a piece of paper from my small notebook, I wrote Jan’s name on it and pushed the paper through to join the rest, sending a special prayer for her with it. We rested a few minutes on the pews, relishing the hushed and peaceful atmosphere. Before departing I lit a candle for Jan.

Our tour, time, and energy were at an end; rather than hiking back up to the top of town where our car was parked, we hired a taxi driver to take us to the parking lot. Back in our car, a pleasant ride down a backroad led us to the main highway. A few raindrops later we were back in Todi.

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