Assisi is a small town in Umbria, 12 miles east of Perugia. Best known as the birthplace of St. Francis – patron saint of Italy, founder of the Franciscan order, and one of the most popular Catholic saints of all time – the town is also the birthplace of St. Clare – Chiara d'Offreducci, the founder of the Poor Clares, as well as Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.
A major Catholic pilgrimage destination for centuries, Assisi remains among the most popular tourist destinations in Italy, with 4-5 million pilgrims and tourists each year.
Assisi offers the visitor Roman ruins, winding medieval streets, sacred shrines and impressive frescoes, but the main attraction is the 13th-century Basilica di San Francesco. Built in memory of a man who preached and lived a simple life of poverty and abstinence, this Basilica is grand and lavishly embellished.
It is a focal point of both high art and intense spirituality, a powerful place for the devout and art lovers alike. It was built in the 13th century by St. Francis' disciple Brother Elia. Much of the lasting popularity of the Franciscan order is due to Elia’s efforts.
Much of the artwork inside the Basilica was done in the late 13th century, in the Upper Church, and the early 14th, by Giotto and his assistants, in the Lower Church.
Earthquakes in 1997 damaged several churches in Assisi, and the Basilica of St. Francis was the worst hit. Owned by the Vatican, it was also the first one to be restored.