God has shown us favor! Saint Francis of Assisi died on the evening of October 3, 1216. We arrived at the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in time to be part of the mass to celebrate the life of Saint Francis on the 800th anniversary of his death.
We were originally supposed to visit the basilica the following day, but we heard that it would be the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi and that the square would be packed with people there to celebrate. We decided to go see the Porziuncola that evening instead of dealing with the crowd. We were shocked and pleases to realize that we were there for the mass. We had no idea we would be there for the 800 year celebration!
It was magnificent! A Cardinal was presiding over the celebration and the basilica was packed! People were sitting on the floor and in confessional boxes… anywhere they could find some space.
The Porziuncola is a small church located inside the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels. The Porziuncola is the most sacred place for the Franciscans. It was here that the young Saint Francis heard his vocation to rebuild the church and renounced the world in order to live in poverty among the poor and thus started the Franciscan movement.
Our day began on an incredible note as well! We started our morning in Siena. We visited the church that Saint Catherine of Siena worshipped in. Her head is on display there as it, miraculously has not decomposed over the last nearly 650 years. It is almost impossible to believe what you are seeing with your own eyes.
Next we drove to Assisi and visited the Basilica of Saint Clare, one of the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. She founded the Order of Poor Ladies, an order of nuns that follow the Franciscan tradition of living a life of poverty. Unlike Franciscan followers, the nuns would remain confined in their monastery secluded from the outside world. Following her death, the order she founded was renamed in her honor as the Order of Saint Clare, commonly referred to today as the Poor Clares.
Saint Clare’s body lays in her basilica completely intact. Her remains are yet another Saint that has not decomposed. In the late 1980’s the Italians sealed her body in wax because the exposure to visitors was destroying the remains. It was incredible to see… Another instance of whether my eyes deceive me or if this is real.
We travelled down the streets of Assisi and peeked into cafés and shops. I would love to spend a week in Assisi and definitely plan on coming back! It is the quintessential Italian village that you think of when you conceptualize a trip to Italy.
The Basilica of Saint Francis is his final resting place. It was quite the experience to visit his tomb. What made visiting his basilica even more amazing was that the monastery for the Franciscan order was right next door. Our priests and Friars back home are part of the Franciscan order. We had mass in their facility and were able to see where our priests did their studies.