The town of Assisi in Umbria is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Europe, thanks to the saint who was born – and is buried – there.
When Saint Francis, founder of the Franciscan Order, died in 1226, plans for a basilica dedicated to him were begun. Construction of the Basilica di San Francesco started in 1228, and the basilica was consecrated in 1253. It is actually a complex of two churches, an upper and lower, built into a hillside. The interiors of both churches were frescoed by artists of the era whose names are familiar to us today – including Giotto and Cimabue. St. Francis' tomb is in the crypt, and is what both pilgrims and tourists line up to see.
In 1997, two earthquakes hit Umbria within minutes of one another, but it was an aftershock that shook the basilica in Assisi. Many of the original Giotto frescoes in the Upper Basilica were destroyed, and the vault collapsed, killing four people. The church was closed until 1999 while restoration work took place.
The Basilica di San Francesco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Lower Basilica and crypt are open daily from 6am-6pm, and the Upper Basilica is open daily from 8:30am-6pm.