Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis, so there are a large number of churches in the city associated with the life of this saint. Apart from the basilica dedicated to himself, these are the San Damiano convent and the Eremo delle Carcere. However, these are not the only interesting churches in the city. Contrary to what one might think, the city’s cathedral is not dedicated to its most famous inhabitant.
Opening Hours: Most – and especially the most important – sights are of a religious nature and are therefore open all year, including Sundays. During winter time they do close a little earlier. (During the Covidcrisis opening times may differ from the usual ones and churches might even be closed.)
Entrance fee: Admission to most churches is free. In some of them you might have to pay a little bit for the crypt, or the museum.
Tips: Be sure to be chastely dressed when entering the main churches and basilicas. Bare legs and shoulders are usually not allowed. It is also often forbidden to take photos inside.
Saint-Francis of Assisi Basilica
The biggest and most famous attraction of Assisi is without doubt the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, who himself is buried here. It is divided into a Basilica Inferiore and a later built Basilica Superiore. This mother church of the Franciscans is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Construction began two years after the saint’s death.
San Damiano Convent
The Monastery of San Damiano e le Sue Clarisse is one of the main attractions. It is here that the story of St. Francis began when the Christ on the cross he was praying for suddenly came to life and said “Rebuild my church.” It is a much more austere church than the St. Francis Basilica. It is located in a quiet spot a little outside the city.
Santa Maria degli Angeli in Porziuncola Church
The Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli in Porziuncola was built in the Renaissance period and houses, among other things, the Porziuncola. This is an ancient chapel, originally Benedictine, where Saint Francis founded the Order of the Franciscans in 1209.
Eremo delle Carceri
The Eremo (“Hermitage”) delle Carceri is located about 5 kilometers from the center, in the direction of Monte Subasio. The church built inside the gates of the Eremo contains some relics of St. Francis, who had retreated to this place to pray undisturbed. After visiting the Eremo, one can continue walking towards Monte Subasio to contemplate the magnificent panoramas.
Santa Chiara Basilica
The Santa Chiara Basilica already existed when the body of Saint Chiara, who died in 1253, was brought here by Saint Damiano. Originally, Saint Francis himself was also buried in this church. The cross that would have addressed him can still be seen in the Basilica di Santa Chiara. The most striking feature is formed by the three huge half arches that support the left wall.
San Rufino Cathedral
The Cathedral of Assisi is not dedicated to St. Francis but to the city’s second saint, San Rufino. Tradition has it that the remains of this saint are buried under the cathedral’s main altar. Built in the 12th century, the church was completely restored after the 1997 earthquake.
Saint Peter’s Church and Abbey (Abbazia di San Pietro)
The San Pietro Church dates back to the late 10th century and, like the other churches associated with St. Francis, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The beautiful facade of the sparsely decorated church has three rose windows and, next to the entrance, two lions.
The Chiesa Nuova, (“New Church”) was built in 1615 on the site of the birthplace of Saint Francis of Assisi, where he lived with his family until he was 24 years old. The Saint had been locked in here by his father because he had given away his possessions to have the San Damiano Church repaired and to put him back on the right path.
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva Church
The Temple of Minerva and the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva are located in the Piazza del Comune in the center of the city. In 1539 the temple was converted into a church. Its current appearance is the result of a rebuilding in the 17th century. Since then, this baroque structure has remained virtually untouched.
Santa Maria Maggiore Church
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is located in the Piazza del Vescovado in and was built over an ancient Roman temple, which was probably dedicated to the God Janus. The early Christian crypt beneath the church can also be visited.
Santo Stefano Church
The Church of Santo Stefano is one of the smaller churches of Assisi and was built in the 12th century. The bell tower of this church is said to have sounded at the time St. Francis breathed his last. The little church has hardly changed over the centuries.
Churches outside Assisi
Santa Maria Maddalena Church
The relatively lesser known Santa Maria della Maddalena Church is located outside of town, along the street that connects Santa Maria di Rivotorto with the Santa Maria degli Angeli in Porziuncola Church. The church belongs to the borough of Rivotorto.
Santissima Trinità Church
The Santissima Trinità Church is also located in Rivotorto.
San Giovanni Battista Church
The San Giovanni Battista Church, again in Rivotorto, is located at the end of the Via San Francesco. The church stands exactly at the point where this street continues in three directions, under the names Via della Regola, Via Liveranio and Via del Passaggio Vecchio.