Sabbatical Week 5

I’ve spent this week in Assisi, exploring churches and other sights that I’ve read about and written about for years–but now, I have the chance to feel, hear, walk, and pray in the places where St. Francis and St. Clare spent their lives.  I’m incredibly grateful to be able to stay at the apartment in Assisi that belongs to the Society of St. Francis, the Anglican Franciscans.

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It’s been chilly and rainy most days but almost no tourists. (I’ll take February weather any day over the crowds.)

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This is the 12th century crucifix that originally hung in the Church of San Damiano from which Francis heard Christ speak in 1205. Now it’s in the chapel of the Basilica of St. Clare. I heard evensong at Santa Chiara one night–an unusual experience because the nuns are cloistered (heard but not seen.)

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The Church of San Damiano which Francis helped restore and where he lived for a time. Eventually, Clare and her sisters lived at San Damiano and it was also here that Francis composed the Canticle of the Creatures shortly before his death. Nestled in a grove of olive trees, San Damiano preserves a Franciscan simplicity (largely due to an Englishman who owned the property privately, until he gave it to the Franciscans in recent years.). On several nights I’ve joined Brother Clark in attending Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament here. This includes a 20-minute silent Adoration, which is amazing.

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The Basilica of St. Francis, containing frescoes by Giotto. Upper and Lower Churches…..beyond words.

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This is where Jacoba of Settesoli is buried, just across the chapel from Francis and several of his brothers. I love the story of Jacoba– a noblewoman of Rome who was captivated by Francis and his mission. Francis encouraged her to remain with her family, but follow him as best she could, in what became the Third Order of the Franciscans. They remained close friends and Francis referred to her as “Brother Jacoba,” as though she were fully one of the gang. At his death, Francis asked that she come and visit, and bring some of the good cookies that she used to give him when he visited her in Rome!

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The Life of Clare by the “Maestro di S. Chiara,” 1283, in the Basilica of St. Clare. (My photograph doesn’t begin to capture its beauty.]

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You know you’re in Assisi when the vending machine has M&M’s in the second row, but Rosaries in the first!

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The Porziuncola (Little Portion) Chapel over which the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli was built. Beneath the gold and paint, the rustic chapel dates to the 10th century. It was one of the early churches restored by Francis and where he heard the Gospel calling to “go and preach to all the world.” Francis and his brothers lived here for a time, and it was here that Francis received Clare, before establishing her and her sisters at San Damiano.

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The place to be in Assisi on a Saturday night is the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels for the Rosary and Candelight Procession, following the golden Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (Our Lady is equipped with her very own battery pack [hidden tastefully by flower arrangements] to keep her halo lit while moving through the room–take note Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Times Square!)

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St. Leonard’s Church (also called San Francescueccio (Little St. Francis), where the Anglican congregation in Assisi worships. The frescoes on the outside are from the 15th and 16th centuries.

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It was a great gift to worship with the Anglicans at St. Leonard’s, with Brother Clark Berge, minister general of the Society of St. Francis [shown to the right, before Mass] celebrating and preaching. The fresco over the altar shows the Crucifixion of Christ with St. Leonard at the far left and St. Francis at the far right. It is in the style of Giotto, painted by G. di Corraduccio in the 1430s.

About John F. Beddingfield

Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City on East 88th Street between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave.
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