San Francesco



Plaza San Francesco, entrance to Lower Church, the stairs lead to the Upper Church

Barbara's Diary


San Gimignano

Siena + Galgano

The Landscape

Monte Oliveto






Pieve di Romena



This was my first visit to Assisi. For fifty years I have avoided this place of fervent veneration, of bus loads of pilgrims and tourist. We had an extra day to spare and carefully calculated arrived there late in the afternoon and Barbara went back to the church of St. Francis next day, very early in the morning. Considering all my age-old prejudices, Assisi turned out to be the overwhelming artistic experience : maybe the greatest fresco cycles in the West.

The very conveniently located, charming if not grand Hotel Berti, close to Saint Francesco and the biggest extramural parking lot, helped in easing the visit.


Hotel Berti

Hotel Berti



The Lower Church

The Lower Church is a dark, and depending on one's mood, either an oppressively or a comfortingly cavernous space. In order not to detract from this mystical atmosphere the illumination is kept intentionally low.... Coming from the bright light outside it takes half an hour to adapt, and then one can only poorly make out the frescoes in the numerous side chapels attached to the main nave.


Cappella San Martino

Simone Martini, S. Martin divides his coat 1312-17

Simone Martini, S. Martin's Burial, 1312-17

Simone Martini, S. Martin renounces his weapons

Simone Martini, The Miracle of Resurrection


The Upper Church

The Frescoes of Cimabue and Giotto

 By contrast to the cave below the Upper Church is a tall, well-lit, sober Franciscan-Gothic structure its walls covered from top to bottom with frescoes. To see Giotto's famous paintings side by side with those of his teacher Cimabue is very instructive and is not available in Padua nor in Florence, the locations of other important fresco cycles by Giotto : Giotto paints the Life of St. Francis in a sequence of rigidly defined, episodic pictures confined by rectangular frames while Cimabue's frescoes burst their confines, spill over their frames, and exhibit a wild abandon Giotto never achieved. To wit these frames:

Cimabue, Crucifixion 1280-83

Cimabue, The Apocalyptic Christ, 1282

Cimabue, The Madonna in Majesty and S. Francis, 1282


Giotto's "Life of St. Francis" in the Upper Church

St. Francis renouncing his weapons

St. Francis receiving the stigmata 1297-1300

St. Francis driving the devils from Arezzo

St. Francis preaching the birds

St. Francis' dream of St Augustine

St. Claire mourning her friend and mentor