Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Tuscany Part 4......

Another day, another place to visit, first stop was the Umbria region and Assisi.

Famous as the birthplace of St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan religious order in the town in 1208. The winding streets, architecture and frescos are a delight as you make your way through the town,

 as are the views from Assisi's hilltop position.

Assisi is also the resting place of St. Clare (Chiara d'Offreducci), the founder of the Poor Sisters, which later became the Order of Poor Clares after her death and home to Basilica di Santa Chiara (St Clare's Basilica), which is reached via cobbled winding street as one climbs higher. Construction of the Basilica of Saint Clare began under the direction of Filippo Campello, one of the foremost architects of the time.

On 3 October 1260, Clare's remains were transferred from the chapel of San Giorgio to the Basilica of Saint Clare where they were buried in the earth under the high altar of the new church.  After having remained hidden for six centuries - like the remains of St. Francis - and after much searching had been made, Clare's tomb was found in 1850. On 23 September in that year the coffin was unearthed and opened, the flesh and clothing of the saint had been reduced to dust, but the skeleton was in a perfect state of preservation. Finally, on 29 September 1872, the saint's bones were transferred, with much pomp, by Archbishop Pecci, afterwards Pope Leo XIII, to the shrine, in the crypt of the Basilica of Saint Clare, erected to receive them, and where they may now be seen.

 Onwards and upwards
where we came across The Temple of Minerva,

an ancient Roman building which currently houses a church, Santa Maria sopra Minerva, built in 1539 and renovated in Baroque style in the 17th century. The attribution to the goddess Minerva derives from the finding of a female statue, although a dedication stone to Hercules has been found, and the temple was likely dedicated to this male semi-god. Of the ancient temple, the façade has been preserved, with six Corinthian columns supporting the architrave and a small pediment. The columns were originally covered by a very strong plaster, which was perhaps colored.

A little further on we were faced with a fork in the road to take us to St Francis' Basilica and chose to take the left way down the hill, it proved to be the wrong way for where we wanted to go and we had to come back up, but it was a worthwhile detour as you will see from the following photos.

We headed back and took the right fork to find more beautiful buildings

and alleyways,
then there it was, the magnificent Basilica of San Francesco.

The basilica is one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy, with its accompanying friary, Sacro Convento, the basilica is a distinctive landmark to those approaching Assisi. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.  The basilica, which was begun in 1228, is built into the side of a hill and comprises two churches known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church, and a crypt where the remains of the saint are interred. The interior of the Upper Church is an important early example of the Gothic style in Italy.

The Upper and Lower Churches are decorated with frescoes by numerous late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools. The range and quality of the works gives the basilica a unique importance in demonstrating the development of Italian art of this period.

We made our way down to the lower church.

On 16 July 1228, Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX in Assisi, and he laid the foundation stone of the new church the following day, although construction may already have been begun. The construction having been begun at his order, the Pope declared the church to be the property of the papacy.  The Lower Basilica was finished in 1230. On Pentecost 25 May 1230, the remains of St. Francis were brought in a solemn procession to the Lower Basilica from its temporary burial place in the church of San Giorgio (St. George), now the Basilica of Saint Clare of Assisi. The burial place was concealed for fear that St Francis' remains might be stolen and dispersed. The construction of the Upper Basilica was begun after 1239 and was completed in 1253. Both churches were consecrated by Pope Innocent IV in 1253.
The Piazza del Loge, the square leading to the lower church, is surrounded by colonnades constructed in 1474. They housed the numerous pilgrims flocking to this church. In 1818, the remains of St Francis were rediscovered beneath the floor of the Lower Basilica. In the reign of Pope Pius IX the crypt was built so that the faithful might visit the burial place of the saint.
We sat in the shade under the colonnade whilst waiting for our group to complete their sightseeing in the square before making our way back down the hill to our coach.
Heading back to our hotel we visited Perugia, which involved a trip on the Minimetro which is a family of cable propelled automated people mover systems, built by Poma/Leitner Group. The vehicles either run on rails or an air cushion and have either a detachable grip (to the cable) or a fixed grip.  We took a video of the ride but unfortunately it won't upload because it's too big, so take a look at the youtube link here . It was rather fun.

An ancient Etruscan city,  Perugia is the capital city of the region of Umbria in central Italy, crossed by the river Tiber. The city is also the capital of the province of Perugia.  A city full of alleyways,

majestic buildings,

 fabulous doorways,

religious icons imbedded in walls,

fabulous arches,

including this hidden treasure an Etruscan arch/gate dating from the 3rd century BC, which our guide took us to when we bumped into her during our exploration of the city.

We found our way to the main square with it's Fontana Maggiore and
the Palazzo dei Priori, the centre of communal government.
Perugia's San Lorenzo Cathedral's side entrance can also be found on the square,
so we went in and sat for a while and enjoyed the silence.
The first chapel as one enters the cathedral is dedicated to the Holy Ring, the relic of the engagement ring of the Holy Virgin, which was stolen from Chiusi in 1473.  It looked much to large to be a ring that would fit on anyone's finger so I imagine it was just a symbol of the engagement. I took a photograph but because the ring was behind glass it's very blurred.

Perugia has become famous for chocolate, mostly because of a single firm, Perugina, whose Baci (kisses) are widely exported. Perugian chocolate is very popular in Italy. The company's plant located in San Sisto (Perugia) is the largest of Nestlé's nine sites in Italy.According to the Nestlé Usa official website Baci is the most famous chocolate brand in Italy.The city hosts a chocolate festival every October.  Of course being a chocoholic MWM purchased a good amount and can vouch for it being good!

As you see we'd had a very busy day sightseeing and were more than ready to head back to our coach for the journey back to the hotel, to rest our weary feet and enjoy a good dinner.

Please join me for Tuscany Part 5 when we visit Florence.


Winifred said...

That was a great post. Such lovely photos of some beautiful buildings.

It's sad really that in the UK we pulled down so many beautiful buildings, just didn't value them. We're still doing it too. Places like Italy & France seem to value their heritage much more than we do.

Look forward to your next episode.

Cloudia said...

Timeless! As are you, judging by your photos!

Valerie said...

Memorable scenes,Pearl. I loved looking at them all again since most of my photographs were lost on the computer!

Akelamalu said...

Thanks Winnifred. Yes I so agree with you about the buildings.

Ah you're very kind Cloudia. xx

So pleased the photos brough back good memories for you Valerie, such a shame all your photos were lost. xx