The Basilica di San Francesco, or Saint Francis, is the top sight in the Umbrian hill town of Assisi and a top pilgrimage destination in Italy. Mostly restored after the earthquake of September 1997, it’s really two Basilicas built on top of one another, an upper and lower. Both churches were consecrated by Pope Innocent IV in 1253.
Perched on the far west end of the town of Assisi, the complex sits on a hilltop where the gallows for criminals sentenced to death once stood. Previously known as the Colle d’Inferno, Hill of Hell, the name was changed to Colle di Paradiso, Hill of Heaven, when the land was donated as a place to build a basilica dedicated to Saint Francis.
The Lower Church, or Basilica Inferiore, was completed in 1230 in Romanesque style. Later additions include a Gothic-style entry portal and a Renaissance porch. The Lower Church holds the crypt of Saint Francis, where the Saint’s body was entombed in 1818, as well as 13th – 14th century frescoes.
The Upper Church, or Basilica Superiore, was finished in 1253 and is completely different in style with soaring Italian Gothic arches, a beautiful rose window, frescoes, and stained glass panels considered to be the finest example of Medieval glass in Italy. The famous fresco cycle illustrating the life of Saint Francis, painted between 1296 and 1304, is on the lower walls of the nave.
Saint Francis Basilica is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Note: In 2016, we had to pass through a security check to enter the church area.
Assisi Itinerary: 48 Hours in Assisi