Churches of Assisi
This was another one of our travelling days, and this time we stopped and saw not just one, but two large churches and several small churches. We visited one of the humble 15-20 person churches of the time of St. Francis, which was literally inside of a much larger 17th century church. They boasted two very different styles, one medieval and simple, the other grand, pristine, bright and snow white. From here we hopped back in the bus and over to an escalator leading up to an old part of Assisi. Here we stopped for lunch at one of the local shops recommended in Rick Steves’ guidebooks and had a nice conversation with the extremely friendly owner, who enthusiastically explained the virtues of the local olive oils, balsamic vinegars, truffles and pesto. After a taste test, we purchased some of each to bring home as souvenirs, along with some porchetta sandwiches to eat on the steps of an alley way. Sometimes it is the simple things like this that really make a stop enjoyable.
The Temple of Minerva
Post lunch we met up with a few fellow travellers and made our way to a church which was formerly a temple of Minerva from around 100 b.c., and later converted into a church. Interestingly enough the animal sacrifice pits were left intact, a remnant of the old custom of making one animal sacrifice for war and one for peace.
Had this been all we did this day, we probably would have called it a success, but there was more in store for us. We were greeted by another local guide, who was a true wealth of knowledge. He shared with us about his home of Assisi with the casual manner of a good friend and the heart of a teacher. We made our way through the streets and alleyways, where he explained what life was like, and best of all he taught us how to recognize what we were looking at. He showed us a passage way sealed off in the early 1500s, and had us date it. “What do you see on the mural?” Someone noticed turkeys and, since turkeys came from the new world, this would date these murals as post 1492. Its pretty neat how information like this traveled to the center of Italy so quickly. He really made us imagine what life must have been like.
Church on a Church
From there he took us to another church, the Basillica of Saint Francis, a church on a church this time. A church which had its own papal apartment, and murals painted by none other than Giotto. We then made our way down below to another lower level of the church with its own set of murals.