Thursday, May 24, 2007

Assisi Pilgrimage: The Early Bird...

One year ago today I had my first full day in Assisi. Today our new pilgrims begin their first day in the City of Peace.

I began my day earlier than most. I used the library, spent time in the chapel and then climbed to the top of the mountain, to the fortress, before breakfast!

Our pilgrimage was developmental and followed the life-span of the saints. We began at the Chiesa Nouva or the New Church. In 1615 the King of Spain offered the money to build a church over Francis childhood home. The church is beautiful. Immediately Father AndrĂ© begins to educate us about the art of the time. We also learn that many churches will have walls covered in frescoes (poor man’s art) but that many of these walls are now solid white. This is because the frescoes were destroyed by earthquakes (this is an active earthquake region) and because of plague. When the city was hit by plagues the churches served as hospitals. During that time the walls were washed down with lye water which also washed away the frescoes.

Below the church are the apartments and fabric shop of Francis family. We view the family prison that his father locked him in. We view the stairs that have to be lowered to the sidewalk from the house. This is to slow down looters.

Next we go to the Santa Maria Maggiore, this was the cathedral of Francis day. He also may have helped restore this church. This is where the renunciation took place. Francis father hauled Francis before the bishop to have him tried for giving the shop's fabrics or their worth to the poor. In return, in the courtyard, in front of a crowd, Francis takes off all his clothes and gives them to his father. From that moment on he only refers to God as his father. This is the beginning of a growing relationship between Francis and Bishop Guido. This is the beginning of a radical gospel-living life.

Lunch was wonderful. The food is all made of fresh ingredients, it is simple (sometimes), hearty and I wished I could always eat like this. Our prayers at mealtime are always in song and always fun.

In the afternoon we go to the Cathedral of San Rufino. This is a beautiful Romanesque style church with bas relief art in the outside walls. There is a beautiful Rose Window. Inside there are statues of all of the local saints. This is the church in which Francis, Clare and Don Aldo were baptized in. A year ago today we all renewed our baptismal vows from the same font.

Afterwards I take a few friends to the top of the mountain, to the fortress. The view is still beautiful. It was a great day.

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