FIOR (Franciscan Institute Outreach - Malta)

12. Franciscan Sanctuaries (1)

Assisi, the hometown of Francis and Clare

12.1 Here we will be presenting a concise picture of the places sanctified by the presence of Francis and Clare. We shall deal first with the sanctuaries inside or near Assisi, and then with other Franciscan sanctuaries in Umbria, Tuscany and Lazio regions of Italy.

A street in Assisi

12.2 The town of Assisi (24.790 inhabitants) stands on the foothills of Monte Subasio (1290 m.) at 424 metres above sea-level. It is first mentioned in history during Roman times, because in 89 BC Assisi became a confederated Roman city and a "municipium". One can still see the remains of the Roman "forum" underneath Piazza del Comune, as well as the imposing façade of the Minerva temple. The evangelisation of Assisi, according to tradition, was the work of St. Rufinus, its first bishop and martyr in the year 238. Assisi subsequently fell under the barbaric invasions and was also a part of the Byzantine empire during the time of Teodoricus. In 568 it became part of the domains of the Longobards, and was under the direct rule of the duchy of Spoleto. The development of Benedictine monasticism had a direct influence on the cultural and social framework of Assisi. The remains of the famous monastery of St. Benedict on Monte Subasio can still be seen to this very day. The bishop Ugone started the building of the church of St. Rufinus, which was to become the cathedral church of Assisi. It was here that Francis and Clare were baptised.

12.3 In 1160 Frederick Barbarossa conquered Assisi. In 1174 the archbishop Christian of Mainz again conquered the town, which had rebelled against the imperial domination. Frederick Barbarossa nominated Conrad von Urslingen count of Assisi and gave him the Rocca as his residence. It was during this period that Francis was born. Later on, in 1198, Innocent III reclaimed his rights on the duchy of Spoleto. The citizens of Assisi took the opportunity of the absence of Conrad, who went to consign Spoleto to the Pope, to besiege and sack the Rocca, and declare Assisi a free Comune. The tension between the "boni homines" (nobles) and the "homines populi" (merchants) was to end up in a bitter conflict between Assisi and rival Perugia. This was the historical setting of the early years of the life of Francis and Clare.

© copyright FIOR-Malta
Text by Fr. Noel Muscat ofm


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