Day 4 Siena and Assisi

 

 Siena is a city in Tuscany, Italy. It is the capital of the province of Sienna.The historic centre of Siena has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. It is one of the nation’s most visited tourist attractions, with over 163,000 international arrivals in 2008. Siena is famous for its cuisine, art, museums, medieval cityscape and the Palio, a horse race held twice a year.

Assisi is a town and commune of Italy in the Province of Perugia in the Umbria Region, on the western flank of Monte Sabasio.

Assisi was the birthplace of St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan religious order in the town in 1208, and St. Clare, the founder of the Poor Sisters, which later became the Order of Poor Clares after her death. The 19th-century St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was also born in Assisi.

St. Francis founded the men’s Order of Friars Minor, the women’s Order of Saint Clare, the Third Order of Saint Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land.[1] Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.[1]

Pope Gregory IX canonised Francis on 16 July 1228. Along with Saint Catherine of Siena, he was designated Patron saint of Italy. He later became associated with patronage of animals and natural environment, which became customary for Catholic and Anglican churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of October 4.[4]

 

The lower church at Assisi – site of the tomb of St. Francis

 

Lower Church - Tomb of St. Francis

Tomb of St. Francis of Assisi

Tomb-of-St.-Francis

The remains of St. Francis were solemnly transported to the new church on 25 May 1230. Pope Innocent IV consecrated the basilica on 25 May 1253. Pope Benedict XIV declared the church a Patriarchal Basilica and Papal Chapel on 25 March 1754 with the Constitution “Fidelis Dominus”. Pius VII, on 12 September 1818, gave permission to the Minister General of the Friars Minor Conventuals to proceed with the excavations underneath the main altar of the lower basilica in order to find the tomb of St. Francis, which had been conceiled by Brother Elias and then by Pope Eugene IV in 1476.

The tomb came to light on 8 December 1818, and on 12 December the remains of St. Francis were exhumed. In order to facilitate the visits of the growing number of pilgrims to the tomb, a new neo-romanic crypt was opened underneath the lower basilica. On 18 June 1939 Pope Pius XII declared St. Francis patron saint of Italy. A votive lamp with oil donated by the various regions of the Italian peninsula burns on the tomb. On 18 January 1978 Pope Paul VI authorised the Minister General of the Friars Minor Conventuals to proceed with the reopening of the tomb and scientific study of the remains of St. Francis. This took place between 24 January and 4 March 197

With the specific orders of Popes Eugene IV (1442) and Sixtus IV (1476), the tomb containing the sarcophagus with the bodily relics of the Saint were sealed in such a way that they could not be disturbed or interfered with. This was a time of fierce fighting between the noble families of Assisi and Perugia, thus the tomb needed to be completely inaccessible in case of theft. The tomb was thus kept in this state of solitude, definitively closed until December 1818, when Pope Pius VII allowed the tomb to be freed from the solid rock it was incased in. This also allowed the mortal remains of the saint to be uncovered and properly investigated by the Umbrian bishops, medical experts and archeologists from Rome and nearby towns.

The stone shown here was used as a pillow for the body of the saint, as he lay in the sepulchre since 1230.

 

The eleven silver coins were also found in the sarcophagus. Pressed at Lucca towards the end of the twelfth century, they came from the Mint of Otto IV. These coins are identical to those found at the same time in the sepulchre of St. Mark in Venice, which prove the times of birth, death and burial of Francis, as well as authenticating his remains in this glorious sepulchre.

At the base of the Statue-Reliquary of Saint Francis we find other small relics, which are arranged around a small flask containing ashes of the body of the saint, removed during the uncovering of 1818.

 

 

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