Thursday, June 05, 2008
The train station at Assisi has its main signs in this medieval-looking style. It makes me feel like maybe I really am going back in time. Or at least makes it easier to imagine.
I went to Assisi to rest and pray after being around people and talking so much. I stayed two nights with the Suore Svedesi, the Swedish Sisters. Here is my little bitty room...
...which didn't seem so little when I looked out the window.
My first destination, the church of San Damiano. You can see the outlines of the original church (the round window was in the center), which was added on to. If you enlarge, you can also see snow on the mountains just where the bell is hanging. That snow was the talk of the town all day long.
How old must these olive trees be? I was facinated by the disintegrating trunks, still carefully pruned and bearing olives surrounded by those misty grey leaves.
A field between San Damiano and the city. You can see the snow again here if you enlarge.
Scenes along my long....long....long walk. Chickens tend to look the same everywhere, but these flowers, which are the same as in the earlier photo, I had not seen before. (You have to enlarge the photo to see them, beautiful little intense blue flowers.)
The Rocca Maggiore (main fortress) seen (top photo) from one of the highest streets in the city, and then from along the road as I walked up Monte Subiaso to the Eremo delle Carceri.
The priest who led the group that I encountered, a very dear man--made dearer to me by his letting me ride down to the city with his group.
The trees seemed to dance. This is the wooded area around the caves where Francis and his friends used to go to pray.
You can see here how the hermitage, chapel, and other outcroppings have been built right into the side of the mountain.
One of my last views as we left the hermitage.
After my hike, I slept so well that I woke up early enough to glimpse this beauty outside my window.
I took this one just because it's such a rare sight where I live. A group of nuns sightseeing are themselves a sight for me to see.
The flying buttresses of the church of Santa Chiara. (Do they count as flying if they are grounded on one end? I never studied this...)
If you enlarge this photo, you can see little yellow flowers growing atop the buttresses.
Since I don't know how to insert links into my blog, I'm copying the text of what I wrote about Assisi earlier, if you want to read it and make more sense of the pictures:
O mamma mia, have I said already that I love italy?
How can I possibly keep up on this blog with my meanderings? I don't really want to spend time at a computer, but I know if I don't write as I go, it will be impossible to write it all later.
After Napoli, I went to Assisi. I had been twice before for short day visits, but this time I got to spend two nights and therefore have more time to be in the city without worrying about missing a train.
I went to San Damiano, the church where Francis first felt called to rebuild the church. The little bitty church that he sat in there, and that he literally rebuilt, is there, and has been built all around so that it is now a larger complex, partly still in use by the Franciscan monks, and partly preserved for people to see.
It's always moving to be there and to think how this man had the courage to do what he did, and that something that started in this small church out in the country has reached throughout the world and lasted so many centuries.
And it's just beautiful out there, and so peaceful.....I will try to put photos on once I get back home. The olive groves are just lovely, with olive trees so old you can hardly believe they are still producing.
I was happy to be able to go into an alimentari, grocery store, and have a sandwich made for less than 2 euros. With the exchange rate as it is, things are very expensive here, and i am saving as much as possible on food! (Because of course I had to have money to buy a sweet little blue and white plate....)
In the afternoon I went against common advice and walked out to the Eremo delle Carceri, literally the Hermitage of the Prisoners. Not sure why it's called that. But it's the place where Francis and friends used to go for extended periods of prayer.
It was about a 5k walk, so that was fine with me. I was told that it was all "in salita," i.e., uphill. I didn't realize that the woman should have said up a mountain! It was quite a steep hike! I was so tired by the time I got there, I didn't know how I would make it back down.
As it happened, I arrived at the beginning of a tour by an American group, and I joined them. They were not regular tourists, though, and it was lovely to hear the "tour guide," a Franciscan priest, give historical information, and then to be there as the group sang songs together, or prayed prayers. We spent a half hour in silence, so everyone could just walk the woods and simply be.
And these lovely people gave me a ride home in their taxi, without charge. I was so very thankful.
The next morning I went to the church of Santa Chiara. It was so flooded with tourists, though, that I just couldn't stay there. I walked around and found another church, the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, which apparently used to be the cathedral of Assisi, before these other huge churches were built. It was small and simple, and for quite some time I was the only person in it. That was very peaceful. I sang a little bit, just to enjoy the acoustics of an empty stone church. Below the church is an old Roman home. Well, the ruins of an old Roman home. Very old and very interesting.
Assisi is a fascinating place to me, beautiful and full of history that made a difference....for good.
While there I remembered that without realizing it (because I knew almost nothing about Francis of Assisi at the time), I chose for our wedding a hymn based on the Canticle of the Creatures, a setting of a prayer often attributed to Francis or to a Franciscan (Lord, Make Me an Instrument), and another song by John Michael Talbot, who was a Franciscan oblate at the time he wrote the piece. I knew none of this when I chose the pieces....
And if anyone's interested, a good book to read is The Reluctant Saint, by Donald Spoto.