Travel Diary 45: Santa Maria degli Angeli, Assisi

by Agnes Felber November. 13, 2013 3523 views

The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Saint Mary of the Angels) is a church situated in the plain at the foot of the hill of Assisi, Italy, in the frazione of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
The basilica was constructed in the Mannerist style between 1569 and 1679 enclosing the 9th century little church, the Porziuncola, the most sacred place for the Franciscans. It was here that the young Francis of Assisi understood his vocation and renounced the world in order to live in poverty among the poor and thus started the Franciscan movement.

One enters the rose garden via the sacristy. It is the last remains of the ancient wood in which St Francis and his friars lived. Here he talked to the turtle doves, inviting them to praise the Lord.
Doves have been nesting since times immemorial in the hands of the statue of St. Francis in this rose garden.

From the rose garden, one enters the Rose Chapel. This was the cell where St. Francis rested and spent the rest of the night in prayer and penance. Here St. Francis also met Saint Anthony of Padua. After his death a chapel was built in the 13th century, enlarged in the 15th century by St. Bernardine of Siena. It was decorated between 1506 and 1516 with a series of frescoes by several painters, among which the Umbrian Tiberio d'Assisi, depicting the early Franciscan community and the first saints of the order, the miracle of the roses and the concession of the indulgence.

The chiesetta (little church) of Porziuncola (Italian for “Little portion”) is the most sacred place for Franciscans. Francis was given this little church, dating from the 9th century, by the Benedictine monks.
The church is exquisitely decorated by artists from different periods. Above the entrance is the fresco by Johann Friedrich Overbeck (1829) depicting St. Francis receiving from the Christ and the Virgin the indulgence, known as the “Pardon of Assisi”. The side wall on the right side shows fragments of two frescoes by an unknown Umbrian artists. The austere interior is decorated in a simple Gothic style with frescoes from the 14th and the 15th century. The most outstanding work is the six-part fresco in the apse of this little church, painted by Ilario da Viterbo (1393). At the back, above the entrance, is a fresco depicting the Crucifixion by Pietro Perugino.

Behind the Basilica we came upon this enchanting place that must be a convent: no travel books or online maps I could find mention its existence.

According to tradition (already attested at the end of the 13th century), one night St. Francis, feeling the temptation to abandon his way of life, rolled naked in the bramble thorns in an attempt to overcome doubt and temptation. In contact with his body, the bramble bushes turned into dog roses without thorns. Since then, the dog rose cultivar Rosa canina assisiensis has been grown in the garden.

The basilica as seen from the cathedral of St Francis from the hill.

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Darlene Foster 7 years, 5 months ago

Everyone is just so beautiful!

7 years, 5 months ago Edited
Juhã¡Szn㩠ÉVa 7 years, 5 months ago


7 years, 5 months ago Edited