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Robyn Vinter is a journalist and blogger from Leeds, England. After writing articles for national and local newspapers and magazines, she now works for a travel price comparison site. A prolific guest blogger, she writes about what she knows - travel.

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The history and culture of Assisi

The history and culture of Assisi - feature photo

Assisi is located in Umbria, Italy, between Rome and Florence. Assisi is the twin city of San Francisco, California in the USA. Like most Italian cities, Assisi is home to many wonder-inspiring cathedrals, palazzos, fountains, and squares. Assisi, however, is more notable than many other cities because it has sired many historically important people and events.

Assisi was the home of many Italian saints, who include: Agnes, Clare, Francis, Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, Rufinus, Vitalis and Sylvester. The most famous of these, however, is perhaps Francis, who founded the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor, or the Franciscan Order. The Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi is the mother church of this order, and is made up of two churches: The Upper and the Lower. The Upper church is a prime example of early Gothic architecture. Both churches are decorated with important frescoes from the late medieval era and include paintings by Giotto, Cimabue, Pietro Lorenzetti and Simone Martini. The basilica is also home to the remains of St. Francis, who was not only born in Assisi, but died there as well.

Some of the most famous paintings in the Upper Church of the Basilica of San Francesco are the frescoes which make up the “Francis Cycle”. This is a series of paintings about the life of St. Francis. The authorship of these paintings has been intensely disputed for many hundreds of years. It is most likely that the frescoes belonging to the “Legend of St. Francis” were collaboration between several artists, possibly from Rome. The style shown in these works does not match that of any of the singular artists who visited Assisi and painted there.

Not only the home of paintings and religious artifacts, Assisi is also the birthplace of Assisi Embroidery which originated in the 13th century and is still practiced there. It is a style of counted-thread embroidery that leaves the main motif empty, or unstitched, while the background is filled in with cross-stitches. The traditional motifs were birds and animals stitched in simple colors such as red, blue, green and brown, with ornate filigree borders. Now, Assisi embroidery sometimes employs the use of beads, bright colors and metallic threads.

Many people travel to Assisi every year to walk in the footsteps of St. Francis and St. Clare, who was one of the first followers of Francis and founded the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic order for women in the Franciscan tradition. Clare is buried at the opposite end of the city in the Basilica of Santa Chiara, where resides the crucifix which spoke to Francis in San Damiano. Those on a spiritual journey through Italy can make their way to Assisi and walk upon the same ground as the saint and pray at the crucifix at the Basilica of Santa Chiara. Worshippers of all ages try to connect to the saints and understand their journeys. Whether religious pilgrims or tourists on vacation, Assisi contains more than enough history and culture to elicit gasps of delight and awed silence from any visitor.

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