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The Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, Italy, holds a significant place in Christian pilgrimage and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It stands as a remarkable landmark, drawing visitors to the charming Umbrian town where Francis was born.

Constructed in 1228, merely two years after Francis’ passing, the basilica was intended to serve as a sacred space to safeguard his remains. Pope Gregory IX laid the foundation stone on 17 July 1228; the day following Francis’ canonization and was completed in 1253.

The architectural style of the basilica intertwines elements of Romanesque and Gothic design, showcasing influences from French Gothic and Umbrian traditions. The exterior is crafted from Subasio stone, imbued with a rosy hue during the day and gleaming white beneath the moonlight.

The Basilica of Sant Francis comprises two superimposed churches—the Lower Church and the Upper Church—adorned with captivating frescoes created by late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools. Esteemed artists such as Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini, and Pietro Lorenzetti contributed to its artistic legacy.

While the Lower Church, accessible from the side of the basilica, emanates a somber and introspective atmosphere, inviting penance and silence, the Upper Church exudes a sense of openness and radiance, as if yearning to ascend towards the heavens.

Within the lower half of the nave in the Upper Church, Giotto’s renowned frescoes depict episodes from the life of St. Francis, encompassing his youth, his passing, and the alleged miracles attributed to him posthumously. The rest of the ceiling fresco represents the three Franciscan virtues: Poverty, Obedience and Chastity. These masterful artworks further enrich the spiritual experience of visitors to the basilica.

In 1226, Francis died of malaria (and perhaps other illnesses caused by extreme poverty) at 44. During his life, he was never ordained as a priest. He felt he was unworthy. Positioned midway down the nave of the Lower Church is the entrance to the crypt, housing the tomb of Saint Francis—a modest sarcophagus placed upon a rock.

AV Travel group tour had the priviledge to attend Mass celebrated by Fr Francis Xavier Tran van Hoai on the 4th of July, which happens to be his birthday as well.