The legend of Loreto (angels lifted the house intact and flew across the ocean to Croatia where it stayed until it was no longer safe, then the same angels carried it through the air to Loreto, Italy where it remains today), is so hard to believe that I was reluctant to go inside, what if I wanted to laugh instead of worship? Maybe I shouldn’t be here. But I was here now, so I took a deep breath, walked across the Piazza della Santa Casa and opened the large front door.

I was deeply affected by the Holy House in Loreto; it was the holiest place I had visited so far and is still one of the holiest places I have ever visited. As soon as I stepped inside, I felt such a powerful presence that I paused, almost fearful to step forward. I didn’t know why, and I didn’t know what to expect, but I found myself almost tip toeing up to the marble casing that protects the holy house. I was almost afraid to step inside the little house, when I did, I stood in awe; I couldn’t believe that I had the rare and amazing privilege of standing here inside of this mysterious and miraculous structure. The space is very small, measuring roughly 28 feet front to back, including the vault with the altar that is outside the original house, it is only 12.5 feet from side to side; and 13.5 feet tall; if there are more than 5-6 people inside; it’s extremely crowded.

There are two competing stories explaining how the little house arrived in Loreto; I have copied them here; I will leave you, gentle reader, to decide which story you choose to believe. The first story is the one that is told in the basilica; the second story is from a more recent study of the little house.  

From the flyer I picked up inside the basilica: “LORETO … The Shrine of the Holy House – Spiritual Guide”

“The Holy House of Loreto, the first shrine of international renown dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, has been a true Marian center of Christianity for several centuries.

According to ancient tradition, which has now been confirmed by historical and archeological research, the Shrine of Loreto preserves our Lady’s home of Nazareth. Mary’s earthly home was made up of two parts: a grotto dug out of the rock, which is still venerated in the Basilica of the Annunciation at Nazareth, and a stone house which was in front of the grotto. 

Grotto of the NativityThe Grotto of the Annunciation in Nazareth

According to tradition, in 1291, when the Crusaders were finally expelled from Palestine, Our Lady’s stone house was transported “by angels” first to Illyria (Tersatto, in modern Croatia) then to the territory of Loreto (10 December, 1294)

Today, recent documentary indications, the results of archaeological excavations at Nazareth and the ground below the Holy House (1962-65), as well as philological and iconographic studies, all seem to confirm that the stones of the Holy House were transported to Loreto by ship, thanks to the intervention of a noble family Angeli (Angels in Italian) that ruled Epirus. A recently discovered document, dated September 1294, testifies that on giving his daughter Ithmar in marriage to Philip of Taranto, fourth son of Charles II of Anjou, king of Naples, Niceforo Angelo, despot of Epirus, settled upon Philip, as part of the bride’s dowry, certain properties among which stand out “the holy stones carried away from the House of Our Lady the Virgin Mother of God”.

Five crosses made of red material have been found walled among the stones of the Holy House, belonging to Crusaders or more probably to knights of the military order that defended the holy places and relics during the middle ages. Some remains of an ostrich egg have also been found, which immediately recalls Palestine and a symbolism referring to the mystery of the Incarnation.

Furthermore, for its structure and stone, which is not available in this area, as a construction the Holy House is foreign to the culture and building practices of the Marche. On the other hand, the technical comparison between the Holy House and the Grotto at Nazareth has highlighted that the two parts were contiguous and coexisted.

Diagram Holy House

A recent study of the way the Nabathenes cut stone, a method which was widespread throughout Galilee in Jesus’ time is of great importance in confirming the tradition. The numerous graffiti cut in the stones of the Holy House are also very interesting. Experts have judged them to be clearly of Jewish-Christian origin and very similar to those found at Nazareth.

Cut Stones LoretoStone cutting is similar to Nabathene stone cutting from Palestine

Loreto GrafitiGraffiti on stones found in the Holy House is similar to graffiti found in First Century stones in Palestine

In its original form, the Holy House had only three walls because the eastern side, where the altar stands, opened onto the Grotto. The three original walls (with no foundations and standing on an ancient road) rise only to the height of three meters (nearly 10 feet). The masonry above, made of local bricks, was added later, including the vault (1536), to make the place more suitable for worship.

The marble casing that surrounds the walls of the Holy House was commissioned by Julius II and built by well-known Italian Renaissance artists according to a design by Bramante (c 1507). The statue of the Virgin with Child, in cedar wood from Lebanon, replaces the XIVth Century one which was destroyed by fire in 1921.

Over the years, numerous famous artists have worked to embellish the Shrine, which has become the favored destination of millions of pilgrims and whose renown has spread rapidly throughout the world.

Holy_House_of_Our_Lady_in_Loreto_interior_altarThe Holy House in Loreto; the stones from the floor to about 10 feet are from the house in Nazareth, stones above that height are local stones.

A competing explanation of the Holy House of Nazareth was published by “The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property ( I have pasted it here:

Science Confirms: Angels Took the House of Our Lady of Nazareth to Loreto

August 7, 2016 | Luis Dufaur 

At a conference organized by the “Amici del Timone” Cultural Center in Staggia Senese, Italy, titled “The Story of the Incredible Move of the House of Mary of Nazareth to Loreto,” a topic was developed which challenges engineering.

Indeed, the Holy House, birthplace of Our Lady and where the Archangel Gabriel announced to her the Incarnation, has been for many centuries in the town of Loreto (Santa Casa di Loreto), in the Marche region of Italy, facing the Adriatic Sea.

However, the Annunciation took place in Nazareth, in the Holy Land, where the foundations of the Holy House remain to this day. When compared with the dimensions and characteristics of the Loreto House, they match perfectly; but the similarities and concordances do not end there.

How did the Holy House take off, so to speak, from its foundations and reappear about 2,000 miles away, where it remains intact to this day?

According to historical evidence, the move took place in the thirteenth century; but how could it have been done given the poor technological resources of the time?

The move is attributed to an angelic action officially recognized by Popes and sustained by saints. However, such authoritative approvals are not intended to explain the material procedure, which carried an object the size of a house from one continent to another practically overnight.

This transfer, however, was confirmed by historical, documentary and archaeological evidence. Once again, for the astonishment of many, science confirms the Church.

Prof. Giorgio Nicolini, who devoted his life of study and research to the case, spoke at this conference. Based on these scientific evidences, he proved indisputably the veracity of the miraculous transfer.

During his lecture, Professor Nicolini demonstrated the existence of many documents and eyewitness accounts of the transfer, which science and human method cannot explain. He also established a chronology of the change of location.

1.  On May 9, 1291, the Holy House was still in Nazareth.

2.  On the night of May 9 to 10, 1291, it traveled nearly 2,000 miles and reached Tersatto (now Trsat), in the region of Dalmatia, in what is now a suburb of Rijeka, Croatia.

On that occasion, Nicolò Frangipane, feudal lord of Tersatto personally sent a delegation to Nazareth to ascertain whether the Holy House had indeed disappeared from its original place. The emissaries not only verified its disappearance but found the foundation on which the house was built and from which the walls had been taken away as a block. Around these foundations in Nazareth, the Basilica of the Annunciation was built. In Loreto, the Holy House stands firmly, without its foundation, directly on the ground.

3.  On the night of December 9 to 10, 1294, the Holy House disappeared from Tersatto and landed “in various places” of Italy. For nine months it stayed on a hillside overlooking the port of Ancona, which thus came to be called “Posatora,” from the Latin “posat et ora” (to set down, or land, and pray).

A church was built on the site as a memorial, as was recorded at the time and signed by a priest “Don Matteo,” probably an eyewitness.

Two tombstones also commemorate this occurrence. One is from the same time period of the event and is written in old Vulgar Latin. The other, from the sixteenth century, is written in vernacular and is a copy of the older.

Posatora’s oldest tombstone already mentioned “Our Lady of Loreto,” making it clear that the inscription was done after the House’s departure from the site.

4.  In 1295, after nine months in Posatora, the Holy House moved to a forest that belonged to a woman called Loreta, near the town of Recanati. That is where the name Loreto comes from.

5.  Between 1295 and 1296, after spending eight months in this location the Holy House was miraculously transported to a farm on Mount Prodo belonging to two brothers of the Antici family.

6.  In 1296, after four months at this farm, the Holy House departed and landed on a public road on Mount Prodo connecting Recanati to Ancona, where it remains to this day.

Countless other elements attest to the historical truth of this inexplicable translation of the Holy House. Three churches were built in Ancona—two still existing—testaments that eyewitnesses saw the “flying” Santa Casa arrive in Ancona and stop in Posatora.

Moreover, in Forio, on Ischia Island, fishermen who traded with Ancona returned narrating the events that had taken place in 1295. Their reports led the city inhabitants to erect a basilica dedicated to “Santa Maria di Loreto.” They also saw the Holy House in Ancona with their own eyes.

Various bishops of the region approved the veneration of the miraculous translations. For centuries the Popes renewed the approvals until Urban VIII, in 1624, definitively established December 10 as the Feast of the Translation of the Holy House of Mary, Mother of God.

Several Popes, including Paul II, Julius II, Leo X, Pius IX, Leo XIII and Pius XI documented their recognition of the translation. These respective documents, beyond their religious aspect in which the Popes recognize the event as supernatural, are recognized as valuable documents by historical science.

Professor Nicolini strongly reprimanded the materialistic mentality, at times agnostic, atheistic or Protestant, which seeks to discredit the authenticity of the Holy House venerated in Loreto.

In a way, this opposition encouraged deeper studies, which ended up proving the Holy House actually came from the Holy Land. Proofs include the chemical composition of the material used to build the house, its shape, and many architectural details.

Some, denying the angelic translation, went so far as to fabricate a story that a fanciful princely family from Epirus named “Angeli” had dismantled the house and transported it brick by brick at the request of the Crusaders facing the destructive advance of Muslims. That “family” then rebuilt the house in Loreto.

Such an operation, with the transportation conditions of the thirteenth century, would have been a more miraculous feat than the angelic translation.

The stones and bricks are kept together with a mortar whose physical and chemical composition is found only in Palestine and precisely in the region of Nazareth. They are nonexistent in the Marche region or anywhere else in Italy.

Moreover, if the house was dismantled and rebuilt in place after place along its journey—as claimed by its fanciful objectors—one cannot understand how it could possibly have maintained the exact geometric proportions of the Nazareth house, whose foundations, to this day, match perfectly the walls of Loreto.

Nor would it have been possible that nobody saw or heard the house being dismantled and later rebuilt, especially in the brief span of one night in the center of the shrine in Nazareth and then again in Croatia and Italy.

Even more inexplicable is the fact that the Holy House finally came to rest across an old dirt highway. On this road, the passage of animals and carriages naturally opened ruts in the center of the roadway, raising the roadsides, and forming ditches on both sides. Thus, the way the house landed, its three walls, with no foundation, are supported partly on ground and partly over open air. Today pilgrims can see this for themselves through a glass floor.


Glass on the floor for the Holy House allows pilgrims to observe the walls without foundations, still supported on the ground and partly in the air.

The Recanati City Hall, moreover, had already at that time forbidden the building of houses on public roads and had ordered demolished all buildings found to be in violation of the ordinance. How, then, could someone have rebuilt a house cutting across the road without anyone noticing?

Another great hurdle comes from the lack of means in those days to carry an entire house, even if dismantled brick by brick and stone by stone. It would weigh a few tons. Transport by road would have likely been unfeasible due the delay and the amount of chariots, animals and men it would require. Transportation by sea, while more feasible, would also have been too time-consuming and prone to loss due to storms.

More complicated still would be to cut the walls in segments and take them intact on a 2,000 mile journey and then glue them back together without leaving traces of the joints. These material factors, Prof. Giorgio Nicolini explained, postulate the impossibility of such transportation with the technical means of the time.

From Professor Nicolini’s long and detailed demonstration it is clearly much more reasonable to believe the angelic translation resulting from a wondrous work of God, for Whom nothing is impossible, and Who has worked far greater miracles.

For human hands to have performed such a translation is to consider an event even more miraculous than that done by the work of angels.


A marble casing covers the exterior of the Holy House of Mary, Mother of God, as seen from within the Basilica in Loreto, Italy.

The pictures I took didn’t turn out as well.


P1040455Interior of the Holy House


P1040456Flash wasn’t allowed, so I was unable to get a good picture of the actual Holy House, this is just the vault with the altar.

MadonnaThe Virgin with Child carved from cedar wood from Lebanon replaced the original that was destroyed by fire in 1921. The original had been darkened from years of exposure to smoke from votive candles; the artist who carved the new Madonna, mistakenly believed the darkened color was from the original and colored the new Madonna deep black, so she became the Black Madonna of Loreto.

I spent a long time standing in this very small space. It’s impossible to describe the sense of peace and beauty that covers this small room; people walk silently, it’s rare to hear voices talking. I stood for a long time pondering what these walls had seenit was in this room that Mary read to Jesus and taught him the scriptures, Jesus may have fallen down and skinned his knees in this room, did he cry? Did he rub up against the very stone I’m touching? What did they talk about, was there a lot of laughter? Did any house ever contain so much love?

I had the rare privilege of attending Mass inside the Holy House. While I was contemplating the sacred space, I noticed that some young men were setting up the altar for Mass; that can’t be right, Mass is celebrated in the basilica, not in this tiny space that can hold only a few people. But, as I watched it became clear that we were about to celebrate Mass! I think I held my breath hoping I’d be allowed to stay; surely a Mass in this holy place would be invitation only, wouldn’t it? Soon, a bishop entered wearing his chasuble and red skull cap and celebrated Mass for a dozen or so people crowded into the tiny space! This Mass was not on the schedule and everyone was as surprised and delighted as I was, more and more people tried to wedge their way into the space, some even kneeling to look through the door. It turns out, a bishop was visiting from Peru and requested permission to celebrate the Mass in the Holy House. It was one of those experiences I’ll never forget. If you ever have a chance; please come visit the Holy Mother in her Holy House; you will not be disappointed.




It broke my heart to leave Assisi, there is a covering of grace in that town; one feels the presence of St Francis and St. Clare, I wished I had planned to stay longer. But, I had reservations in Loreto, so I packed my suitcase again and reluctantly took off for the train station. I was headed to Loreto; I knew nothing about Loreto, I included it on my itinerary because it was on the way to San Giovanni Rotunda, which I wanted to see very much. I had planned to go south to the Amalfi Coast, but since this is a Catholic pilgrimage, I felt compelled to visit Loreto after I read the stories and learned of the shrine. The train ride was captivating, I passed through Umbria and on to the Adriatic coast.

P1040384I zoomed past the coast at more than 100 miles per hour on the train to Loreto.

P1040385Waiting for the bus at the train station in Loreto – I still had no idea what to expect and I still missed Assisi.



Loreto is at the top of a steep hill overlooking the countryside.

P1040388There is roof access from my hotel, here is the view from my roof – stunningly beautiful.




P1040391 CUTThere was a farmers’ market in the center of the town, right outside my hotel; I wished I had a kitchen so I could try cooking some of the fresh vegetables.

P1040392 CUT

P1040393It was hard to find anyone who speaks English so I meandered towards the giant dome I guessed must be the basilica.

P1040394There was a wide street that rounded around a steep incline leading to the basilica, the first thing I saw when I rounded the corner was this airplane. The people of Loreto are very proud of the air force base located just outside of town. Because of the legend of Loreto, Pope Benedict XV named the Holy Virgin of Loreto patroness of air travelers in 1920. She is invoked by pilots as their heavenly guardian.

As I continued up the hill toward the basilica I came to an outdoor shopping center.

P104039620€ for new tennis shoes!!


P1040398Hand carved beauties

P1040399The other side of the road is lined with street cafes that smell heavenly.

Then, I arrived at the basilica completely skeptical of the story of Loreto.

P1040400I expected a small chapel, I did not expect a large basilica with a convent attached to it – my curiosity was piqued; what would I find in this beautiful place?

P1040401A street artist had adorned the piazza with beautiful chalk drawings.

P1040402 CUT


P1040404K CUTNotice the cat?

Okay, there is more here than I expected; it’s time to learn why this basilica is here. It’s such a long story, I’ll save it for my next post.






After my arrival in Assisi, I immediately went exploring and the first site I found was the Basilica di Santa Chiara (Basilica of Saint Clare), it was just steps from my hotel; it would be my home church in Assisi. At 7:00 the Poor Clare’s pray the Divine Office with Mass directly afterward; what a treat!!

Chiesa di chiaraBasilica di Santa Chiara, the basilica was designed by architect Filippo Campello, construction began in 1260. It is home to the Poor Clare monastery.

Photo by By Ricardo André Frantz (User:Tetraktys)

Chiara complexBasilica complex, photo by: By Ricardo André Frantz

P1040157The view from the Piazza di Basilica di Santa Chiara 



P1040161The Piazza di Basilica di Chiara

P1040176Inside the chapel

From the church pamphlet:

O most high and glorious God,  Enlighten the darkness of my heart.  Give me right faith,  Certain hope,  Perfect love  And deep humility.  O Lord, give me sense and discernment  In order to carry out your true and holy will.

This is a prayer that is born in a time of crisis, of darkness, both internal and external. These are the years in which God forms and transforms Francis. It is a tough experience of the desert and of faith, of darkness and of light. One does not arrive at the light of faith except by passing through darkness and by becoming aware of one’s own interior shadows. “It is you who light my lamp; the Lord, my God lights up my darkness.” (Psalm 18:29)

Darkness does not exist, it is not measurable, only light can be measured. The darkness is nothing, it is the absence of light, the absence of the Word of God and of communion with Him. It is the emptiness, the void. To experience darkness as the absence of God and suffer from lack of light…is already a grace. It is not the cynics who suffer from the absence of God but the mystics.


P1040162The small side chapel

P1040163The crucifix that spoke to St. Francis telling him “Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.”



P1040164 - Copy



P1040169Tunics worn by St. Francis and St. Clare


P1040172In 1240, confronted by troops of Saracens led by the emperor Frederic II of Germany “who entered the cloister…Clare ordered to be brought, infirm as she was, to the door facing the enemies preceded by the small silver box in which the Body of Christ was kept. The Saracens, struck by the force of her prayer, very quickly left the place of San Damiano” – Celano “Life of St. Clare” 21 The City of Assisi still celebrates this liberating event of Clare with the “Festa del Voto” (Feast of the Promise) on the 22nd of June.  (Note the horse jumping right out of the picture frame)

P1040168The Crypt of St. Clare


P1040173St. Clare covered in a model of her face

“Having remained, like the body of St. Francis himself, hidden for six centuries, Clare’s tomb was found in 1850 after a prolonged search. On 23 September that year, the coffin was unearthed and opened. The flesh and clothing of the saint had been reduced to dust, but the skeleton was perfectly preserved. Finally, on 29 September 1872, the saint’s bones were transferred, with much pomp, by Archbishop Pecci (later Pope Leo XIII) to a shrine in the crypt of the Basilica of Saint Clare that had been erected to receive them. It is here that they may now be seen. The feast of St. Clare is celebrated throughout the Church on 11 August.” (

After leaving the church, I continued to explore Assisi.

P1040178This little café looks cool and inviting, doesn’t it?

Then I came to the Chiesa Nuova, a truly interesting church. It is built on the site of the presumed birthplace of St. Francis and home of St. Francis’ father and mother – Pietro di Bernardone and Pica de Bourlemont.

Chiesa_Nuova_AssisiThe Chiesa Nuova: One of the few churches built by Rafael –  Photo By Gunnar Bach Pedersen – Own work (Own photo), Public Domain

P1040369St. Francis’ parents: Pietro di Bernardone & Pica de Bourlemont

P1040195I was taken aback by the paintings on the wall, the church fathers seem determined to expose the horrors of the persecution.

P1040181Many Friars Minor brothers were martyrs of the flock by human heretics for their faith (my Italian is not good, this is the best I can make out)

P1040182Five Friars Minor – Martyrs in Morocco 








P1040194The crypt containing Francis’ parents:  Pietro di Bernardone & Pica de Bourlemont

That was the end of my exploring for that day, I grabbed a quick bite at a sidewalk café and headed to my  hotel.

The next morning, I woke up refreshed and ready to tackle the steep, bumpy streets of Assisi so I took Rick Steves’ audio tour. The first stop was the Roman Amphitheater – yes, Assisi is ancient.

P1040198I went past this very tiny door proclaiming itself  a place of prayer. How refreshing to know that in the heat and busyness, there is a quiet oasis where one can quietly meditate and escape from life for a few minutes.

On the way to the amphitheater, I couldn’t help but notice all the beautiful flowers adorning homes and businesses. It turns out, Assisi has a contest, with the winner of the best floral display announced in June.







The Roman Amphitheater, built in the first century, AD, there is a public park in the center. It was used by the Romans as a mini-coliseum where there were live sports between men and animals. Roman stones were included in the local architecture; the buildings nearby were built in the 13th and 14th Centuries.


P1040212Roman laundry basin, women gathered here to do their wash.

P1040214Porta Perlici, new walls were built in the mid 14th Century as the city of Assisi expanded; the walls were to include the boroughs outside Assisi including the Basilica di San Francesco on one side of the hill and the Basilica di Santa Chiara on the other side of the hill. Construction ceased, however, when the Black Death of 1348 cut the population of Assisi in half.

From the Porta Perlici, there is a clear view of the countryside and the castle

P1040207“Rocca Maggiore, the castle and fortress protecting the town of Assisi, both Rocca Maggiore and Rocca Minore were built around 1360 by Cardinal Gil de Albornoz as part as part of an effort to restore papal authority to the region.” (

P1040159Lovely Umbria, the only landlocked area in Italy

P1040160Barely visible to the left is Rocca Minore, once a protective fortress, today a favorite haunt of young lovers.


P1040208 - Copy

Leaving the hilltop to return to town, I passed through the colorful streets of AssisP1040204


P1040206I wouldn’t want to judge this city’s flower contest.

I arrived at the Cattedrale di San Rufino di Assisi (The Cathedral of Saint Rufino of Assisi)


Assisi’s cathedral, named for Saint Rufino, the city’s first bishop who converted the pagan Roman city to Christianity, after he was martyred, he was buried here. The cathedral was built in the 11th Century. One of best Romanesque facades remaining in Italy.




P1040221One of the lions standing guard at the doorway is eating a Christian martyr.

P1040228In Francis’ time, this was the most important church in Assisi and it played an important role in Francis’ life.





P1040227Baptismal font, in 1181 Francis was baptized here, 13 years later, Clare was also baptized here.

P1040230Would this floor make you dizzy?

P1040225St. Francis 1888

P1040226St. Clare 1888

P1040238The wall that delineates the extent of the city


P1040245Piazza del Commune – the community center; main square and the Temple of Minerva. Center of Assisi for over 2,000 years. The Temple of Minerva became Chiesa di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (Church of Saint Mary Over Minerva.)

P104024617th Century baroque, statues of Peter & Paul

P1040247Piazza del Commune, frescoed vault of old market, art style is called grotesque, literally meaning from a cave or from a grotto. Painted after 1492, after Columbus returned from America with live turkeys.

P1040248People congregate on this fountain to cool off, get a cold drink and socialize.


After I left the Piazza del Commune, I climbed up the very steep hill toward the basilica built to celebrate St. Francis. This is the best shopping district in Assisi, delis with delicious food treasures to ship home, lace, crocheted items, paintings, glass, crèches, statues, jewelry. It’s a veritable land mine for someone who doesn’t have any suitcase space. Finally, after thinking I’d never make it, there in the distance loomed the giant basilica and friary.

Assisi_San_Francesco_BW_2Basilica Papale di San Francesco (Papal Basilica of Saint Francis)  – Photograph by: By Berthold Werner – Own work, Public Domain.

P1040250The basilica was begun the year following Francis’ death, in 1228; Francis was canonized the same year and in 1230 the lower level of the basilica was complete and his remains were transferred to the basilica from the Basilica di Chiara.

P1040266 - Copy









P1040261Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed so these are the only two I was able to take before they let me know I couldn’t take any more. It’s a shame, the building is absolutely amazing. There are frescoes all along the walls illustrating all of Francis’ life. There is a crypt where his remains are kept. Here is a link to some images:                                              ( ) – copy & paste to your browser

P1040263The Friary, Sacro Convento, of the Friars Minor Conventional.

P1040264The basilica affords a sweeping view of Assisi and the Umbrian countryside.


P1040268Saint Pope John Paul II


It was a long, hot climb up the hill to the basilica, but the walk back down was much easier. It was getting late and many bars and cafes were closing, but I found an organic salad that was delicious. I have one more day in Assisi and already I feel sad that I must say goodbye so soon.

The next morning, I took a bus to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Saint Mary of the Angels), I believe it’s the most beautiful of the Assisi churches.

P1040282 - CopyBasilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The jewel of Assisi; the basilica was built in accordance with the wishes of Pope Pius V with the aim of conserving the Porziuncola and provide a welcoming center for the many pilgrims who came to venerate beloved St. Francis. The basilica was built between 1569 and 1679

P1040284Mary of the Angels.



P1040292This is the first Chapel of Santa Maria degla Angeli where Francis spent so much of his time when his ministry first began. It was probably built in the 4th C. and the Benedictine Monks transformed it into the present church in the 9th or 10th C. The name of the region, Porziuncola (Portioncula) means “a little part” and indicates the ground where the church was built. After being abandoned for a long time, it became the third church Francis restored (1182-1226) himself. It was here that he first understood his vocation to give away all that he owned and preach repentance. Here is where he welcomed the first brothers and established the Friars Minor in 1209. He received the church as a gift from the Benedictines in 1211 after he promised to make it the center of his religious family. Furthermore, it was to here that St. Clare escaped her family and put on the religious habit, thus initiating the Order of the Poor Ladies, later known as the Poor Clares.


P1040297The Friars

P1040298St Francis cell, there is nothing here to bring him comfort, that must come from his faith. 

P1040299The cell of another friar


In 1216, Francis felt a strong carnal temptation, so to think of other things, he jumped out of his window into a thorny bush. As he landed, the thorny bush sprouted roses without thorns. Two angels then took him into the little chapel where he saw Christ and the Virgin Mary sitting on thrones and surrounded by angels. Jesus asked him what reward he wanted for his heroic virtue, he replied, “An indulgence for anyone who enters into this chapel, repents and confesses his sins.” After receiving papal permission, Francis announced “Friends, the Lord wants to have us all in Heaven! And I announce to you an indulgence which I obtained from the mouth of the Pope”


P1040300Francis’ vision

The papal indulgence was allowed from noon on August 1 until midnight on August 2, it has been possible to attain a plenary indulgence if the usual conditions are met, a plenary indulgence is also available for the dead for anyone who visits a parish church or Franciscan one. Since then popes have relaxed the date requirement and indulgences can be received any day if the following conditions are met:

  • Sacramental confession to be in God’s grace (during the 8 days before or after)
  • Participation in the Holy Mass or Eucharistic Communion
  • Visit the Porziuncola, followed by a profession of faith (the Nicene or the Apostles’ Creed)
  • Say the Our Father, in order to reaffirm the dignity as a child of God that one received in baptism
  • A prayer according to the Pope’s intentions, in order to reaffirm one’s membership in the Church of which the Roman Pontiff is the foundation and sign of visible unity.


P1040294The rose garden where the thorn bushes became roses.  The Rosa Canina Assisiensis (thornless roses) still grow here.


P1040301Along the loggia, there is a collection of paintings depicting the life of St. Clare

While she was still in the world, Clare directed her witness to bring a sum of money to the friars who were working on the Porziuncola so they would sustain the flesh.

P1040303When the day of palms was near, Clare approached St. Francis and asked about her conversion and how it should be carried out. Francis told her that on the day of the feast, she should go, dressed and adorned, together with the crowd to receive the palm, and on the following night, she should turn her worldly joy into mourning for the Lord’s passion. Therefore, when Sunday came, the young girl radiant with festive splendor entered the church with the others, then something happened, that was fitting an omen, as the others went forward to receive their palms, Clare remained immobile with shyness. The Bishop, therefore, came down the steps and placed a palm in her hand.

P1040305On that night, preparing to obey the commandment of the saint, she embarked on her long desired flight with a virtuous companion. Since she was not content to leave by the usual door, marveling at her own strength, she broke open with her own hands that other door that is customarily blocked by stones and wood. And so she ran to the Porziuncola, leaving behind her home, city and relatives. There the brothers, who were observing sacred vigils before the altar of God, received the virgin Clare with torches.

P1040307There, at Santa Maria of the Porziuncola, her hair was shorn by the hands of the brothers.

P1040309There, after rejecting the filth of Babylon, she gave the world a “bill of divorce”. There her hair was shorn by the hands of the brothers, she put aside every kind of fine dress. After she received the insignia of the holy penance before the altar of the Blessed Virgin and, as if before the throne of this virgin, the humble servant was married to Christ, St. Francis immediately led her to the church of San Paolo to remain there until the Most High would find another place.

P1040312Francis died during the night; in the morning, all the clergy and people of the town of Assisi came and brought his holy body from the place he had died and carrying branches from trees sang hymns and praises. By God’s will, the bier stopped for a while at San Damiano…the iron grate through which the sisters received holy communion and listened to the Word of God was taken down and the friars lifted the Saint’s body from the funeral bier and held it up in their arms for a long time to the opening until Clare and her sisters were consoled, although they were all sorrowful and disfigured with tears, seeing themselves deprived of the comforts of and the exhortations of such a father.


P1040314The inspiration for Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, Laudato Si.

P1040315After I reluctantly left the beautiful basilica and St. Francis’ lovely little chapel, I made my way to San Damiano.

P1040316San Damiano: The Church, built between the 8th and 9th Centuries on the ruins of an ancient Roman edifice.  “This is the famous church that Francis restored, working with admirabil zeal and also the home of the priest to whom he gave the money for its restoration. Here, while praying, Francis heard a voice from the wooden crucifix saying ‘Go Francis and repair my house, which you can see is falling into ruin.’” – Celano, “Life of St. Clare”, 10

Francis predicted this place (1211) would become the dwelling place for Clare and the other Sisters of San Damiano (Poor Clares) who remained there until 1260, when the Basilica di Chiara was completed.

It was here that Francis wrote his “Canticle of the Creatures”, a hymn of thanksgiving to God revealing Francis’ brotherly relationship with all creation.

P1040328The Chapel of St. Jerome, here is where Francis heard the voice of the crucifix. To the right of the main entrance is the niche where Francis threw the money which he had provided for the restoration of the church.

P1040327Here is the niche where Francis threw the money he provided for the restoration of the church. It’s very dark, but to the right is a fresco of Francis praying and his father threatening him with a club.

P1040327 copyI cropped the picture to bring out the detail a little bit

P1040329The Apse with Madonna and child between St. Rufino and St. Damiano, below the apse is the communicating window separating the church and the choir of the Poor Clares. Here, on Oct. 26, 1226, Clare and her sisters venerated the body of St. Francis and kissed his stigmatized hands.

P1040333The Choir of St. Clare, “When she returned from her prayers, her face seemed radiant and beautiful in the sun. And her words expressed an incredible sweetness so that her life appeared all celestial.” – Sister Anna, “Canonization process of St. Clare” 4

P1040332“Not a voice but a desire – not clamour but love – not instruments but hearts singing in the ears of God” From the wooden choir of 1504

P1040336This is a place of personal prayer that Clare had built, it was dedicated to the Holy Virgin



P1040341Clare died here in 1253, 27 years after St. Francis, surrounded by his last companions, (Brother Leo, Brother Angelo and Brother Juniper), Two days before she died, she was visited by Pope Innocent IV. He gave her the document confirming the rule of the Poor Ladies. She had ardently desired this rule and as she desired it, so it happened.

On the 11th of August, after 28 years of illness, Clare died, exclaiming “Go in peace my blessed soul! He who created you has always loved you tenderly as a mother loves her little child. And You, Lord, be blessed for you have created me.” On the wall, a crucifix from the 15th C.

P1040352Clare’s place in the refectory is indicated by a cross of flowers.

P1040349The Refectory “The sisters marveled at how her body survived. Clare, for three days a week, that is Monday, Wednesday and Friday, ate nothing. On the other days, she exercised such abstinence which brought her infirmity. At this point, St. Francis ordered that in the above-mentioned days she should eat something.” Sister Pacifica “Canonization Process” 8



P1040345The Garden of the Canticle


My last stop in Assisi was at the top of Mount Subasio, the Eremo delle Carceri

This is the haven St. Francis escaped to, it’s a primitive mountain retreat where he could commune with nature.




P1040355Tourists are asked to maintain silence as this is a holy place where St. Francis was able to find peace and solitude.


P1040358This is where Francis slept during his mountain retreats.



P1040361The Altar San Giuseppi, used when the Mass is celebrated in the mountains, adorned with Francis’ Tau symbol for the Cross. Mass is still held here during special events.


P1040363Eremo delle Carceri is 4 km from town, all of it straight up, so I took a taxi to the top of the mountain, but I walked back. The silence and the solitude were the best way to meditate on the beautiful forest I had just roamed through and the sacrificial life that brought Francis so much joy and freedom. Possessions are chains; when he gave away his possessions, he discovered a freedom and joy he never expected.




P1040368Aaah, I made it safely back to Assisi!!

This was my last night in Assisi; I was melancholy to leave, I went out after dark because the concierge said there was a special kind of beauty in the nighttime. So, here are my farewell pictures of beautiful Assisi.

P1040372Basilica di Santa Chiara



P1040380 - CopyI found some young men in a parking lot practicing for a flag twirling competition, they were accompanied by loud music and drums.

P1040382 - Copy

P1040383Beautiful Assisi! I will miss you!

Tomorrow, I take the train to the mysterious and unknown town of Loreto, what will I find there?



P1040158Assisi with the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli (Saint Mary of the Angels) in the background. 1040158

I left Siena and Tuscany and headed to Assisi in the region of Umbria. The train ride to Assisi offered a beautiful panorama of the Tuscan and Umbrian countryside.

P1040142I think this is the estate I photographed from the top of the Facciatone (stone wall) in Siena.

P1040145Poppy season

What can I say about Assisi? Siena was a trip to the past, it looks as if nothing has changed for nearly a thousand years; I expected Assisi to be more touristy & more modern. But, coming into Assisi is like flying into mythology and Christology; it is mysticism and antiquity, Roman ruins and craggy hills, but more than anything else, it’s Saint Francis of Assisi. I didn’t know much about St. Francis or St. Clare so I came woefully unprepared.

Stepping into the city requires slamming on the brakes, instead of rushing at a hundred miles an hour, one must go back to the 13th Century and the speed of walking barefoot through the wooded hills. Francis is everywhere, all roads lead to something St. Francis built.

The train station is below the town, just across the tracks from the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli (Saint Mary of the Angels), this church is located on the Porziuncola, where the small church given to St. Francis by the Benedictines and where he began his Order of Franciscans is located. I didn’t know that, though, as I stood in the sweltering heat trying to find my bus, the only people around were taxi drivers who insisted a bus wouldn’t get me where I needed to go. Finally, a few other people came to the bus stop who were happy to help me find my bus. The bus dropped me half way up the slope with nothing nearby except an underground parking lot; I felt abandoned. I forgot that my hotel concierge had told me there was an escalator inside the parking lot that would take me the rest of the way up the hill. So, wearing my heavy backpack and dragging my wheeled suitcase behind me, I climbed the very steep and curving, round about road ¾ of a mile up to my hotel. My GPS was very helpful until we reached the hotel when it wanted me to turn where there was no turn. Hot, sweaty and cranky, I called the hotel—fortunately, I was almost outside their door.


I was standing next to this fountain

P1040197The hotel was just to the right of the fountain.

P1040273This is the Hotel Pax, built in the 12th Century, it’s a charming and delightful little hotel. The hosts were by far the most friendly and helpful of anywhere I visited; which was perfect since there was much to see in Assisi and I didn’t want to miss any of it.


I nearly collapsed in their lobby; they assured me the water from the fountain would revive me, it comes from aqueducts straight down from the Alps; it was refreshing, the people of Assisi are proud of their pure, delicious water.

Next door to the hotel is this little niche.

P1040272These lovely surprises dot the architecture all over Italy.

My room was delightful, there was a little stone stairway leading from the bedroom up to the little bathroom and I had frescoes on my ceiling. I could have been in one of the historical costume dramas I like so much.


Before we can understand Assisi, it’s essential to understand St. Francis (1182-1226)

Francesco_speco and St. Clare (1194-1253).

clarePhoto by By Simone Martini – The Yorck Project

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, St. Francis, was born during the Middle Ages in 1182 and lived until the beginning seeds of the Renaissance were planted. Some say Francis ushered in the Renaissance with his love for his faith, for beauty, and for all living things because people began to notice nature and to see the beauty of faith; the Renaissance idealized faith, beauty. integrity, dignity and learning. Francis was revolutionary for his time because he asked if there wasn’t more to life than scraping out a living, materialism and self; could we be happier if we focused our attention outside of ourselves?

Francis lived a life of comfort and relative freedom, his father, Pietro di Bernardone, a successful silk merchant, was in France when his son was born, so his mother, Pica de Bourlemont, named him Giovanni. Pietro loved France and simply called his son Francesco (the little Frenchman). Francesco enjoyed the privileges that his station in life allowed a restless young man of his time. He joined a military expedition to Perugia in 1201 where he was taken captive and held for more than a year, he became ill during this time and began to consider the emptiness of the life he was living. Still, when he recovered, he quickly resumed his old habits and friendships. His ambition for glory led him to the military life, he joined the Neapolitan States in opposition to the governor in 1205, but he grew ill a second time in Spoleto and heard a voice tell him to go back to Assisi; he did so at once. It was then, that he seemed to lose his fervor for the life he had led before the illness, he seemed to yearn for the life of the spirit. When his friends teased him about his absentmindedness, asking if he were about to be married, he replied “Yes, I am about to take a bride of surpassing fairness”, he was referring to Lady Poverty who would soon become his constant companion – noted by both Dante and Giotto.    He lost interest in lavish clothes and raucous parties and began to spend more time in contemplation and prayer. One day, while riding across the Umbrian plain, he came across a leper, the disgusting appearance of the leper caused him to draw back in revulsion, but he eventually got control of himself, dismounted and embraced the beggar, giving him all the money he had. Similarly, during a pilgrimage to Rome, disappointed by the meager offerings at the tomb of St. Peter, he emptied his purse at the shrine. He, then, traded his luxurious clothing with those of a poor beggar and spent the rest of the day fasting with the beggars at the door of the basilica.

Later, back in Assisi, while praying before a crucifix in the battered wayside chapel of San Damiano, he heard a voice say “Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.”

P1040163This is the crucifix Francis was praying before when he heard the voice, it is found in the Basilica di Chiara.

Francis immediately went to his father’s shop and bundled together a large amount of drapery and rode quickly to Foligno where there was a market at which he sold both the fabric and his horse in order to obtain the money needed to restore the church of San Damiano. When the priest at San Damiano refused to accept the gold Francis brought him, Francis flung the gold aside in annoyance. Francis’ father was incensed at his son’s actions so Francis hid in a cave for nearly a month. When he emerged from the cave, he was gaunt from hunger, squalid and dirty; he was followed by a hooting rabble who threw stones and mud at him, thinking he was deranged. Finally, his father dragged him back to his home, beat him, bound him and locked him in a dark closet.

P1040187His mother released him when his father was out of town, he immediately went to the priest at San Damiano for sanctuary, but his father quickly brought charges against him with the city consuls; the priest restored the gold Francis had left at the church to Francis’ father but Bernardone refused to be content until his son relinquished his inheritance. Francis was more than willing to follow his father’s wishes, he announced that since he was now in the service of God, he was not under civil jurisdiction, he was then taken to the bishop whereupon he removed all of his clothing and gave it to his father, saying, “Hitherto I have called you my father on earth; henceforth I desire to say only ‘Our Father who art in Heaven.'” According to Dante, this was the moment Francis became wedded to his beloved bride, Lady Poverty, in whose name he surrendered all worldly goods, honors and privileges.

Francis Gives HIs Clothes to HIs Father

Fresco from the Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi

After wandering throughout Umbria, he came back to Assisi, where he roamed the city begging for stones with which to restore the church of San Damiano, gradually, he rebuilt the old church. He, then, restored two other churches, St. Peter’s and St. Mary of the Angels, some distance away in an area called the Porziuncola. During this time, he was also very active in works of charity including nursing lepers.

In 1208, he was serving at Mass when the Gospel reading included the passage in which Jesus told the disciples to travel with neither gold nor silver, nor shoes nor staff nor more than one tunic and they were to exhort sinners to repentance. Francis believed this message was sent particularly for him, he gave away what little he had left: his shoes, cloak, pilgrim staff and empty wallet. He obtained for himself a coarse woolen tunic of “beast color” and tied it on with a knotted rope, he then went forth into the countryside exhorting people to repentance, brotherly love and peace. Gradually, he began to gain the admiration of the people of Assisi and to draw others to him. In seeking God’s will for the lives of himself and his followers, Francis retired to a church and randomly opened the Gospels three times, each time it opened to an exhortation from Jesus to give up all things and follow him; “This shall be our rule of life” he determined and led his followers to the public square where they gave away all of their possessions. After this, they obtained rough habits like that of Francis and built small huts near Francis’ Porziuncola. Later, with their rule ready, the “Penitents of Assisi” as they called themselves, headed for Rome to obtain papal approval of their new fellowship. Legend has it that Pope Innocent III rudely rejected the rag-tag group of mendicants who came before him.

Francis and Innocent

But, through the intercession of the Bishop of Assisi, and a dream in which the pope saw the “Poor Man of Assisi” holding up the tottering Laterin, the Pope finally gave verbal sanction for the rule Francis had submitted and granted them permission to preach repentance everywhere. Before they left Rome, they received the ecclesiastical tonsure and Francis was ordained a deacon.

Francis and PorziuncolaIn 1211, the Benedictines gave the Friars Minor, as Francis called his small band of followers, the little chapel of St. Mary of the Angels in Porziuncola; they went on to build the first Franciscan monastery by erecting small huts of straw, mud and wattle, enclosed by a hedge. They went forward, two by two, singing with joy and calling themselves the Lord’s minstrels. They worked in the fields when they could get work, when they could not, they begged for their needs. Gradually, Francis became extremely influential and people of all ranks of life flocked to him and his little band of friars.

During Lent of 1212, a great and unexpected surprise came to Francis; Clare, a wealthy young heiress of Assisi, sought him out and begged to be allowed to enter the new lifestyle he had founded. Following Francis’ advice, the eighteen-year-old Clare secretly left her father’s house on the night of Palm Sunday and went to the Porziuncola where Francis cut her hair, clothed her in the habit of the Friars Minor and received her into the life of poverty, penance and seclusion.

P1040305A highly romanticized image of Clare escaping her parents’ home to join the friars.


Clare stayed with some Benedictine nuns near Assisi until Francis could provide for her and for her sister, Agnes, and the other young ladies who joined them. He established them at San Damiano’s at a home near the chapel he rebuilt with his own hands. The Benedictines gave this church and accompanying structures to Francis as a home for Francis’ spiritual daughters, called the Second Franciscan Order of Poor Ladies who would eventually be called the Poor Clares.

During the autumn of that same year, 1212, Francis’ determination to convert the Saracens led him to sail to Syria, but he was shipwrecked on the coast of Slavonia and forced to return to Ancona. He spent the following spring evangelizing central Italy, then, in 1214, he set out for Morocco in order to preach to the infidels and, if need be, to shed blood for the Gospel. But, while in Spain, he became violently ill and was compelled to return to Italy.

Legend has it that sometime near July 1216, during the pontificate of Honorius III, Francis received the concession of the famous Porziuncola Indulgence. As the story goes, while Francis was praying near the Porziuncola, Christ appeared to him and offered whatever favor he may desire. Because Francis’ constant hope was the conversion of poor sinners and because he wanted the Porziuncola to be a sanctuary where many might be saved, he begged a plenary indulgence for all who confess their sins and visit the little chapel. Jesus agreed to Francis’ request on the condition that the pope should ratify the indulgence. Francis immediately set out for Perugia in search of Pope Honorius III. In spite of much opposition from the Curia, the pope granted the indulgence with just the restriction that it could be for only one day each year, he set August 2nd in perpetuity as the day of receiving the Porziuncola Indulgence, il pardono d’Assisi.

Later, in 1219, Francis, still determined to reach the infidels, took eleven companions and set sail for Saint-Jean d’Acre and they were present at the taking of Damietta in northern Egypt during the fifth crusade, after preaching to the Christians, Francis fearlessly went over to preach to the infidel camp where he was taken prisoner and led to the sultan. The sultan treated Francis with kindness and agreed to treat his Christian prisoners with the same courtesy.


In 1223, Francis devised a new way to celebrate the Nativity, he reproduced in a church at Greccio, Christ’s manger at Bethlehem, thus, he is credited with beginning the devotion to the crib, and the first nativity scene. Christmas was a favorite time for Francis and he tried to get the emperor to establish a special law that men should provide well for beasts and birds, as well as for the poor, so that they all could celebrate the joyous season.


From the upper Basilica of St  Francesco.

“Early in August, 1224, Francis retired with three companions to “that rugged rock ‘twixt Tiber and Arno”, as Dante called La Verna, there to keep a forty days fast in preparation for Michaelmas. During this retreat the sufferings of Christ became more than ever the burden of his meditations; into few souls, perhaps, had the full meaning of the Passion so deeply entered. It was on or about the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (14 September) while praying on the mountainside, that he beheld the marvelous vision of the seraph, as a sequel of which there appeared on his body the visible marks of the five wounds of the Crucified which, says an early writer, had long since been impressed upon his heart. Brother Leo, who was with St. Francis when he received the stigmata, has left us in his note to the saint’s autograph blessing, preserved at Assisi, a clear and simple account of the miracle, which for the rest is better attested than many another historical fact.” (


“After the reception of the stigmata, Francis suffered increasing pains throughout his frail body, already broken by continual mortification. For, condescending as the saint always was to the weaknesses of others, he was ever so unsparing towards himself that at the last he felt constrained to ask pardon of “Brother Ass”, as he called his body, for having treated it so harshly. Worn out, moreover, as Francis now was by eighteen years of unremitting toil, his strength gave way completely, and at times his eyesight so far failed him that he was almost wholly blind. During an excess of anguish, Francis paid a last visit to St. Clare at St. Damian’s, and it was in a little hut of reeds, made for him in the garden there, that the saint composed that “Canticle of the Sun”, in which his poetic genius expands itself so gloriously.”

“On the eve of his death, the saint, in imitation of his Divine Master, had bread brought to him and broken. This he distributed among those present, blessing Bernard of Quintaville, his first companion, Elias, his vicar, and all the others in order. “I have done my part,” he said next, “may Christ teach you to do yours.” Then wishing to give a last token of detachment and to show he no longer had anything in common with the world, Francis removed his poor habit and lay down on the bare ground, covered with a borrowed cloth, rejoicing that he was able to keep faith with his Lady Poverty to the end. After a while he asked to have read to him the Passion according to St. John, and then in faltering tones he himself intoned Psalm cxlii. At the concluding verse, “Bring my soul out of prison”, Francis was led away from earth by “Sister Death”, in whose praise he had shortly before added a new strophe to his “Canticle of the Sun”. It was Saturday evening, 3 October, 1226, Francis being then in the forty-fifth year of his age, and the twentieth from his perfect conversion to Christ.” (

Francis insistence on kindness at all times and to all creatures, included pleading with the people of Gubbio to feed the wild wolf that had ravished their flocks, because “brother wolf” did it from extreme hunger. Many legends from Francis’ life leave us with images of birds and beasts attracted to Francis’ gentle ways and entered into friendship with him. There is even a legend that claims the little birds listened so devoutly to his roadside sermons that Francis chided himself for not thinking to preach to them earlier. He loved nature, he communed with flowers, springs, fire and greeted the sun when it rose.

There is much more to Francis’ life, but I’m afraid I’ve gone on too long even now. To learn more, check out this link to my source for this information:(












My hotel, Alma Domus, was next door to the Santuario di Santa Caterina and just up the street from the Basilica di San Domenico, I didn’t plan to be there, I didn’t even know they existed, but I was truly pleased to discover them.



P1040109St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)

The Sanctuary of St. Catherine is the Benincasa home where Catherine Benincasa was born. “Born in 1347 in Siena, Italy she was the 25th of 26 children of Giacomo and Lapa di Benincasa.  Many of her siblings—including her twin, Giovanna, died at a few months old. Her father was a dyer of cloth; his business was on the ground floor of his great big house with his family and employees living upstairs.” (

P1030947Sanctuary – Home of Saint Catherine



P1040078Beginning as early as age six, she began having mystical experiences and made a vow of virginity at the age of twelve.

P1040077“When her older sister Bonaventura died in childbirth, the sixteen-year-old Catherine greatly upset her parents’ plans for her to marry Bonaventura’s widow by cutting off her hair and staging a massive fast. She had been sent by her parents to meet with a male cousin whom they greatly liked but, unbeknownst to her parents, he was sympathetic to Catherine’s desire to belong only to Jesus—it was he who urged her to cut off her hair as a sign of her love for Jesus for such an act would make her undesirable to male suitors in those days.” (

P1040076She chose to remain cloistered in her home, she practiced extreme fasting and a deep devotion to the Eucharist, her family resisted her chosen lifestyle, but she would not be dissuaded. She also took up the habit of giving away the family’s food and clothing and patiently bore their criticism.


As her mystical experiences continued, she became a Tertiary of the Order of St. Dominic which allowed her to be associated with a religious community but continue to live at home. When she was twenty, she had a mystical experience that she called her mystical marriage to Christ. Later, while visiting Pisa, while praying before a crucifix, she claimed to have received the stigmata, although no one could see it but her. (See altar piece near the beginning of this post) This experience changed her, the vision told her to go out into public life and help the poor and the sick. It was during the Great Plague of Europe, but without showing hesitation, she went into places where no one else would go. She cared for the sick with her bare hands, washing their wounds and burying them herself. She quickly attracted followers who helped her serve the sick and the poor, these people became her “family”.

P1040071“They love their neighbors with the same love with which they love me.” Dialogue 60

P1040073“The soul cannot live without love. She always wants to love something because love is the stuff she is made of, and through love I created her.”  Dialogue 51

P1040075A woman she cared for who was stricken with cancer accused Catherine of living a “bad life”; she answered the charge by professing her innocence, but she was so upset she went in prayer to ask Jesus to help her prove her innocence. In response, Jesus showed her a crown of beautiful jewels and a crown of thorns, and asked her to choose between them. Catherine placed the crown of thorns upon her head. “Since Thou dost bid me choose,” she answered, “I choose to be like Thee, and to bear crosses and thorns for Thy love as Thou hast done for love of me.” (

At the beginning of her ministry, she could not read or write, so the Dominicans taught her some rudimentary skills, she wrote 375 letters, penned by her disciples through dictation, wrote the book “The Dialogue of Divine Providence” which transcribes conversations she had with Jesus. During her times of ecstasies, she dictated her “Orations” which were prayers dedicated to the Lord, the shortest but deepest in theological thought of her writing.

“In 1375 Catherine gained an international reputation by mediating the conflict between the papacy and the city of Florence, and then used her influence to advise kings and make political treaties. Catherine was influential in convincing the timid Pope Gregory XI to leave Avignon in France (where the popes had resided for many years) and return to Rome, freeing the Church from excessive French influence. This success was short-lived, however, for in 1378 Gregory died, and the Great Schism — a division of allegiance between two rival popes — developed. Catherine steadfastly supported Pope Urban VI, the properly-elected successor to Gregory, but the schism was not resolved for almost forty years.” (

“Catherine’s greatest gift, however, was in her ability to teach and preach the Faith and her love of the Eucharist.  In Catherine’s day, it was very unusual to receive the Eucharist on a daily basis — one really had to have permission in order to do so and most times it was denied.  Catherine, however, received very many mystical graces in the Eucharist — so great was her profound love of Jesus in the Eucharist.  Visions and ecstasies often lasting 3-4 hours took place at Communion…many priests later attested to it.  In fact, her spiritual director/confessor, Fr. Raymond of Capua, tells the following of this powerful and holy woman in his biography of her:

“Pope Gregory XI…to content this longing of hers, published a Bull that granted her the right to have a priest at her disposal to absolve her and administer Communion to her and also to have a portable altar, so that she could hear Mass and receive Communion whenever and wherever she liked” (Capua, the Life of St. Catherine of Siena, p. 284).


“For the seven year period prior to her death, Saint Catherine of Siena took no food into her body other than the Eucharist. Her fasting did not affect her energy, however. She maintained a very active life during those seven years. As a matter of fact, most of her great accomplishments occurred during that period. Not only did her fasting not cause her to lose energy, but became a source of extraordinary strength, she becoming stronger in the afternoon, after having received our Lord in His Eucharist.” (

Her extreme fasting led to her illness that ended her life, her spiritual director ordered her to eat, but she said she it was too difficult to eat food. She died at the young age of 33, admired and respected by some of the most powerful people within the Church.

“In 1461 she was canonized by Pope Pius II, in 1939 Pope Pius XII proclaimed her Patroness of Italy together with St. Francis of Assisi and in 1970 Pope Paul VI declare her Doctor of the Church. Besides the “Dialogue” St. Catherine left 374 letters, many prayers and she was also fortunate in being the subject of two biographies written by two of her contemporaries. Her friend and confessor, Blessed Raymond of Capua wrote “The Major Life” and another Dominican, Thomas of Siena, wrote “The Minor Life”.’  (

“We are called to live out our Baptism to love others with the heart of Christ who himself said “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34-35).  It is not enough to love others with a warm fuzzy kind of love but as He has loved us — that is, he loved us unconditionally and unto death. To love them is not just to have feelings for them.  Catherine and all of the great saints took this command of Christ to go forth and to do for others, often at the risk of their lives.  When Catherine volunteered at the local hospital to care for a woman named Tecca who was suffering from leprosy, Catherine’s mother Lapa had great concern that she, too, would catch the hideous disease.

Indeed, Catherine’s hands did develop leprosy but love for this woman (who often had an ungrateful heart for Catherine’s care) did not stop the virgin from caring for her.  When at last the woman died, Catherine herself washed and dressed the disease-ridden body, prepared it for burial, placed it tenderly in a casket, said the prayers and covered the casket with her own hands.  Whereupon, Catherine’s hands were miraculously cured and her hands appeared as more youthful than they had been.  Such is the love and faith in God that the great saints had.”

Read more of my friend, Cynthia Trainque’s, article here (


P1030945Outside the chapel is the courtyard, a bookstore and the crypt. These statues are in the courtyard.

It’s true what they say about nuns being very strict, the nuns shooed me out of the chapel in the Sanctuary twice, after that I was a little gun shy. They have a strict schedule, the public isn’t welcome during their prayer time and, like most churches in Italy, it close promptly at noon until 2:00.

P1030951Not far from the Sanctuary of St. Catherine is the Basilica of San Domenico; it is beautiful.  It was built in the 13th Century by the Dominican Order on Camporagio Hill, this view dominated my skyline and I walked the steep trail up to visit it often, this became my home church in Siena.

Basilica-di-San-Domenico-SienaThis street is right outside my hotel.



P1040081Going from the Sanctuary to the Basilica, Siena is in the hill country, everything is either up or down.


I somehow missed taking pictures of the interior of the basilica so I snagged some photos from the internet.


basilica san domenico 2Catherine and her family attended the Basilica even before it was complete; her father and other members of her family are buried there. This Basilica is closely associated with Catherine because she spent so much of her life here.

P1040082St. Dominic





P1040084Catherine of Siena conversing with Jesus

“It is the nature of love to love as much as we feel we are loved and to love whatever the one we love loves.” Letter T299

P1040098The crucifix Catherine was standing before when she received her stigmata.

P1040083The death of Catherine.

 “And you may be certain of this–unless you really are more ignorant than anyone–that the arm of holy Church, though it may well be weak, is not broken. From its weakness this arm always emerges strengthened, as do those who stay close to it.”  Letter T339.

P1040089Knowing how much it would have pleased the people of Siena to have had at least the remains of their great fellow citizen among them, her former spiritual director, Blessed Raymond of Capua, on October 13th, 1383, secretly sent the head of the Saint to Siena. The occasion to thus content the Sienese arose when the same Blessed Raymond wished to honor Catherine’ s corpse by transferring it inside the Basilica of Holy Mary above Minerve from the cemetery of the Friars adjacent to the church where it had been originally placed in a simple tomb not very tightly sealed and exposed to the elements.

Dampness caused by rainwaters began to consume the body very quickly. It was, therefore, quite easy to detach the head from the rest of the body without violence. There was no need to actually “decapitate” Catherine as some have mistakenly believed and written. By means of tests carried out at the base of the skull the lack of the first few cerebral vertebrae has been discovered: this discovery confirmed the above-mentioned dissolution of the softer nerves and tendons which had already begun to take place, thus facilitating the separation of the head from the trunk.

For more than six centuries Siena has jealousy kept watch over the sacred head of St. Catherine in the Basilica of St. Dominic. The Chapel where it has been placed is one of the most celebrated in the world thanks to the frescoes of Antonio Bazzi called “SODOMA”, who was a disciple of Leonardo da Vinci, the elegant marble altar built by Giovanni di Stefano and another oil fresco of Francesco Vanni.” (

P1040092Yes, this is the head of Catherine of Siena and this is a place frequented by locals and tourists alike, people bring their problems to Catherine and receive the same loving care she gave to her charges during the plague of the 14th Century.




P1040102St. Catherine’s thumb inside a reliquary

“The use of relics has some, although limited, basis in sacred Scripture. In 2 Kings 2:9-14, the prophet Elisha picked up the mantle of Elijah after Elijah had been taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. With it, Elisha struck the water of the Jordan, which then parted so that he could cross. In another passage (13:20-21), some people hurriedly bury a dead man in the grave of Elisha, “but when the man came in contact with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet.” In the Acts of the Apostles we read, “Meanwhile, God worked extraordinary miracles at the hands of Paul. When handkerchiefs or cloths which had touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases were cured and evil spirits departed from them” (19:11-12). In these three passages, a reverence was given to the actual body or clothing of these very holy people who were indeed God’s chosen instruments—Elijah, Elisha and St. Paul. Indeed, miracles were connected with these “relics”—not that some magical power existed in them, but just as God’s work was done through the lives of these holy men, so did His work continue after their deaths. Likewise, just as people were drawn closer to God through the lives of these holy men, so did they (even if through their remains) inspire others to draw closer even after their deaths. This perspective provides the Church’s understanding of relics.

The veneration of relics of the saints is found in the early history of the Church. A letter written by the faithful of the Church in Smyrna in the year 156 provides an account of the death of St. Polycarp, their bishop, who was burned at the stake. The letter reads, “We took up the bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together as we are able, in gladness and joy, and celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom.” Essentially, the relics—the bones and other remains of St. Polycarp—were buried and the tomb itself was the “reliquary.” Other accounts attest that the faithful visited the burial places of the saints and miracles occurred. Moreover, at this time we see the development of “feast days” marking the death of the saint, the celebration of Mass at the burial place and a veneration of the remains.

After the legalization of the Church in 312, the tombs of saints were opened and the actual relics were venerated by the faithful. A bone or other bodily part was placed in a reliquary—a box, locket and later a glass case—for veneration. This practice especially grew in the Eastern Church, while the practice of touching cloth to the remains of the saint was more common in the west. By the time of the Merovingian and Carolingian periods of the Middle Ages, the use of reliquaries was common throughout the whole Church.

The Church strived to keep the use of relics in perspective. In his Letter to Riparius, St. Jerome (d. 420) wrote in defense of relics: “We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the Creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore Him whose martyrs they are.”” (


P1040100St. Catherine quotes:

There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers.

Out of darkness is born the light.

All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, “I am the way.”

In your nature, eternal Godhead, I shall come to know my nature. And what is my nature, boundless Love? It is fire, because you are nothing but a fire of love. And you have given humankind a share in this nature for by the fire of love you created us.”

“This is why you have seen God in his last judgment permitting the Church to suffer so many persecutions and trials. But take heart…and don’t be afraid, no matter what has happened or may yet happen. God is doing it to make the Church perfect once again, so that lambs may feed in this garden instead of the wolves who are devouring the honor that belongs to God by stealing it for themselves. Take heart in Christ gentle Jesus, for I trust that his help, the fullness of divine grace, will come soon to your support and aid. If you do as I’ve told you, you will emerge from war into the greatest peace, from persecution to complete unity–not by human power but by holy virtue–and you will defeat the devils we can see (evil people) as well as those we cannot see–though they never take their eyes off us.”

“You know…that to join two things together there must be nothing between them or there cannot be a perfect fusion. Now realize that this is how God wants our soul to be, without any selfish love of ourselves or of others in between, just as God loves us without anything in between.”  Letter T164















Italy has enormous variety, from the seaside of Levanto to the crowds and canals of Venice, to the quieter, and steeper, hills of Siena. Siena is another city trapped in time, it’s like stepping back into the 13th or 14th Century, the Middle Ages, just before the Renaissance. The roads are rough cobblestones that challenge your balance, the buildings are ancient, the streets are so narrow they seem like alleys, they all go up or down, nothing is level. Everything is stone and the people are friendly and always willing to lend a hand. And, the soil as well as the stones, are the color of Crayola’s burnt sienna – the color is everywhere.

P1040061Siena is probably best known for this piazza, Il Campo, right in the heart of the city. The square was first laid out in the 12th Century, it attracts tourists and locals to soak up the sun, visit the Fonte Gaia (Fountain of Joy) or eat at one of the many nice restaurants. Originally, it was just a field (campo) outside the city walls, but as the city expanded, in the 1200’s, the walls were torn down and it became the town’s marketplace and the conjunction where the 17 contrade (neighborhood districts) converge.

P1030953 City Hall adorns the other side of Il Campo, its monumental clock tower, at 330 feet, is one of Italy’s tallest towers. The chapel at the base of the clock tower was built in 1348 to give thanks to God for ending the black plague.



P1040064The Fonte Gaia (Fountain of Joy) the fountain is named for the great celebration in Siena when the residents saw water gushing out for the first time.

Each contrade (neighborhood district) has an insignia, mascot, color, fountain and church, the walls of the district are marked with that district’s insignia.



P1040036Unfortunately, I don’t know what they mean.



P1040060And banners

The neighborhood rivalry is set in full motion twice a year, on July 2 and August 16 when they have the Palio di Siena; a world renowned horse race in which 10 of the 17 neighborhoods compete at Il Campo. The horses are taken to the contrade church to be blessed, “Go and be victorious”, says the priest; it is considered good luck if the horse leaves droppings in the church.  

From Rick Steves: “While the race itself lasts just 90 seconds, festivities go on for days. As Palio day approaches, processions break out across the city, including one in which the famed and treasured banner — featuring the Virgin Mary, to whom the race is dedicated — is held high as it is paraded to the cathedral. Locals belt out passionate good-luck choruses. With the waving flags and pounding drums, it all harkens back to medieval times, when these rituals boosted morale before battle.”


“The race! Once the rope drops, there’s one basic rule: There are no rules. The jockeys race bareback like crazy while spectators go berserk. In Siena, life stops for these frantic three laps. Up in the apartment, Roberto and Franco held their breath. And then, the winner: Lupa, the she-wolf district.

We zipped out into the street to join the ecstatic mobs coursing toward the cathedral. The happy “Lupa-Lupa-Lupa!” horde thundered through town, weeping with joy. At the cathedral, the crowd packed in, and the winning contrada received the beloved banner. Champions — until the next race.”

Read Rick Steves’ complete article here:

I wasn’t there for the Palio, but there were signs of it everywhere.

P1040111A mark on a wall in a narrow street (yes, the stone walls are this color)

P1040068In a store window


I was drawn to Siena by the stunning pictures I’ve seen of the striped cathedral, so that was one of my first stops, it’s just around the corner from Il Campo.


Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption) Also known as the Siena Duomo

It did not disappoint, located at the top of a hill in the small city, it overshadowed everything near it.





P1040044Romulus and Remus



P1040030The Focciatone. The cathedral was built to rival the Duomo of Florence but the black plague destroyed the city’s will to complete their plans; here you see the wall that would have been part of the cathedral if the original plans had been followed. Following the black plague, Siena withdrew from the world stage and thus preserved this gem of a city and now, we can experience a trip back 700 years into the past.









P1030996The Last Supper

P1030995A heavenly organ!

P1030984A museum displays huge ornate music books that were used in times when churches couldn’t afford a separate book for each person, so the books were printed with large text so the book could be displayed from the front of the church and those of the congregation who were able could read it.

The Duomo Museum


P1040007A window dedicated to the Virgin Mary

Bottom – burial of the Virgin Mary — Middle – assumption of the Virgin Mary; — Top – crowning the Virgin Mary Queen of Heaven

P1040008Some of the original 12 Disciples statues that were removed from the Duomo to protect them


P1040012The Transfiguration by Girolamo Genga

After my visit to the museum, I visited the Facciatone; the top of the uncompleted wall attached to the Duomo.


I didn’t understand (it would have been so much better to learn Italian before I came here) that my ticket included a climb to the top of this wall, the Facciatone, I thought I was climbing the bell tower so I was not prepared for how steep and narrow the steps were. The steps were barely wide enough for my shoe, the stairway was circular and so narrow, there was room for only one person; the tour was planned so that a group went up and then the group at the top went down; there was no passing. The stairway was dim so it was hard to see and there was barely enough room to look down. I wasn’t worried when we started, but as we climbed and climbed with no end in sight, I became more and more anxious. Remember, the tour started in the museum, I didn’t even know I was outside climbing to the top of a wall. There were feet at the top of my head and someone’s head just below my feet, there was no going back and going forward was painfully slow. This was the hardest time of my entire trip; I felt so claustrophobic and trapped I had to repeatedly swallow down the creeping panic. When we emerged at the top where there were incomparably beautiful panoramic views, all I could think of was that I’d never make it down; what if my foot slipped? I’d land on someone and the one before him and the one before him and we’d all go tumbling down like something from a Lewis Carrol story. I looked around and saw a strong looking, kind looking younger man and approached him to see if I could follow him down. He kindly said yes, but his companion had a lot of questions; I must have passed because she smiled and agreed that the three of us could go down together. “He’s not very strong, you know” she said, “I don’t plan to fall on him, I just don’t want to go down alone” was my reply that seemed to convince her. With those arrangements made, I was finally able to enjoy the magnificent view.

P1040014The best viewing spot in Siena.

P1040016Beautiful Tuscany


P1040027Look at the blue sky and the purple hills




P1040029It was hard for me to climb that stairway, but it was worth it…what a view! What a city!

In August and October of 2016, there were devastating earthquakes in Norcia, Italy; the historic Basilica of St. Benedict and the Cathedral of Santa Maria Argentea were severely damaged; many of the treasures recovered from there were sent to nearby Siena for restoration and safety. They can be found in the crypt under the Duomo, there are videos and photographs of the rescue operation; I was touched by how careful the rescue workers were with the ancient and holy articles they retrieved.





P1030978Restoration in Norcia goes on, the people are hopeful they will be able to restore the damaged buildings and retrieve the precious items from Siena.

Across from the Duomo is the Santa Maria della Scala museum which was once a hospital dedicated to caring for abandoned children, the poor and the sick; today it is a museum lined with frescoes illustrating the work that was done there.

P1030960The more time I spend it Italy, the more I admire the beauty of frescoes; these are from the 1330’s and they’ve never been restored – look how fresh they are!





On my last morning in Siena, I planned to go to Mass at the Duomo, so I headed out, past the Santuario di Santa Caterina,


Up and down the narrow cobblestone streets of the cityP1040057P1030949






P1040105My home parish is St. Teresa of Calcutta, so this touched me.

And up to the Duomo Piazza; the guard told me I was early and I should come back in half an hour when he’d let me in. I wandered about looking at souvenir shops. After half an hour when I went back, the guard very abruptly told me there would be no Mass and I should go to St. Agostino’s; where is that Do I have time?? A gentleman was just being turned away and headed to St. Agostino’s so I asked if I could tag along. St. Agostino’s was celebrating the feast day of St. Rita; they were selling roses and candles to place near the St. Rita statue and they were also selling “blessed bread”; I had never heard of blessed bread.

St. Rita: At the age of 12, against her wishes, Rita was married to a violent, cruel and unfaithful man; Rita bore his treatment with meekness and love that eventually had a calming influence on her husband, even to the point of renouncing a feud; unfortunately, his enemies betrayed him and killed him anyway. Rita forgave the killers and publicly pardoned them, a year later, both her sons contracted dysentery and died. Rita later joined a monastery when she was 36. When she was 60, she prayed “Please let me suffer like you, divine Savior” and received a wound on her forehead as if a thorn from Christ’s crown had pierced her. It never healed and she suffered from it until she died. She contracted tuberculosis and while she was bedridden, she asked a cousin to bring her a rose from the garden; her cousin didn’t think it was possible to find a rose in January, but there was one single bloom which her cousin brought back to her. She passed away four months later. She is the patron saint of the impossible.

Blessed bread: bread that is blessed during Mass and distributed to the congregation as a token of union and love.

P1040046The church was overflowing with roses.

P1040047And candles

P1040049The statue of St. Rita surrounded by roses

It was a lovely Mass; the church was filled to capacity and everyone got into the spirit of raising funds for the church and celebrating St. Rita. I bought a small roll of blessed bread and ate it, it was very good.

P1040033Later that day, I went back up to the Duomo Piazza to see the Baptistery; when I arrived at the piazza, there were police cars and crowds surrounding them, I hesitated to go forward, but curiosity won and I continued to the Duomo.


P1040122Oh, why didn’t I learn Italian??

I began to hear “Obama” and then “Obama!!!” I looked all around at the intense security presence and limousines, finally I couldn’t take it anymore so I walked over to the guard who suddenly changed his mind and didn’t let me go into Mass this morning, surely he would know what’s going on. He told me former president and first lady, Barak and Michelle Obama, were coming to tour the cathedral. I had seen newspaper headlines that they were in town but I did not expect to find them.

I walked around the Duomo to go to the Baptistery, but all avenues were blocked, I wasn’t allowed to proceed near the building, so I returned to the front of the cathedral.

P1040129As I got back to the front of the Duomo, I saw everyone looking up and pointing at the Facciatone (the wall I had climbed earlier), so I went back up the Duomo stairs and looked where everyone was pointing and there, indeed, was someone who might be President Obama. I used the zoom on my camera and snapped a few shots of the former president, I thought the woman with him was the former first lady, I couldn’t tell it was not until I got home and took a closer look at my pictures. People were chanting “Obama, Obama” there was a festive atmosphere; people all around me seemed to be very excited. It was obvious that this crowd adored the former president; the excitement reminded me of being at a rock concert.

P1040128That’s Eric Holder in the blue shirt to the left center.

P1040132I decided to walk to the next block and come up to the baptistery from the back.

P1040134It was a little climb


 The Baptistery had just closed!! ☹ 


When I got back to the Duomo, I learned that the former president and first lady had walked by on their way in to tour the cathedral and apparently the first lady scandalized all of Siena by wearing an ugly and inappropriate blouse, but I didn’t see it. (In Italy, no one is allowed to enter Catholic churches unless their shoulders are covered and their legs are covered to below the knee. Michelle Obama’s blouse did not cover her shoulders and appeared to hang down almost to her waist.)

Barack Obama and Michelle in Siena

Photo from a news report

So ended my journey to Siena – what a beautiful and relaxing place to visit. On my way to the train station, I ran across this newspaper stand. What are the chances I’d cross paths with them?

P1040141The Obama   Enchanted by Siena

Tragic crash kills young father

So, I leave Siena and Tuscany to go to Assisi in the neighboring region of Umbria. But, my next post is about Catherine of Siena; the person most intimately associated with this beautiful hill town.








There was still so much to see, as soon as I left the Uffizi and said goodbye to my terrific guide, I headed to the Basilica di Santa Croce (the Sacred Heart).


P1030887My beloved Dante Alighieri stands sentinel over the Piazza di Santa Croce

P1030889The Basilica di Santa Croce, it’s reminiscent of the Duomo with similar gothic architecture, similar marble patterns and façade, but it’s much difference. Here many of the greatest names of the Italian Renaissance are laid to rest.


P1030876Christ crucified and Christ Risen


P1030878The Sepulcher of Lorenzo the Magnificent

P1030881The Tomb of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, the person to whom Machiavelli addressed his treatise “The Prince”. Michelangelo sculpted the tomb, the Duke is the pensive figure at the top, the other two figures represent Dawn (left) waking from sleep and Dusk (right) seems to be falling asleep.

P1030885Tomb of Giuliano Duke of Nemours, Michelangelo has again adorned the tomb with Dawn awakening from sleep (left) and Dusk drowsing and approaching sleep. (right)


P1030897The Tomb of Michelangelo, “Michelangelo died at Rome in 1564. The general design of his tomb, which we are now examining, was by Vasari. The bust of the great master, seen above the central figure, is by Battista Lorenzi, and, if a good likeness, does not show Michelangelo to have been a very handsome man. The figure of architecture – the one on the right – is by Giovanni dall’ Opera. The central figure represents Painting and is by Lorenzi ; while the third represents Sculpture and was executed by Cioli.” (

It was bittersweet to stand before this tomb; the creator of the magnificent David and the sweeping ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the man who carved the heart-wrenching Pieta, the man who infused art with life and vitality and truth and used that art to proclaim his faith in God the creator and in His Son. In our time of post-modernism, I think we take too much for granted, we can’t imagine art before there was perspective or life or energy; today we find it boring. But, gentle reader, Michelangelo rocked the world, he was a greater star than anything we saw in the 20th Century. Michelangelo Buonorotti, I salute you! Thank you!!

Da Vinci Tomb

P1030890The tomb of the great Leonardo da Vinci, mankind owes so much to this man; his invention and discovery as well as his contribution to the art world changed more than we know and influences our lives today. Master da Vinci, thank you.

P1030900My beloved Dante Aligherio; this isn’t Dante’s tomb, that’s in his small hometown of Ravenna, this is just a memorial to him.

“It contains a script “Onorate L’Altissimo Poeta” – or “Honor the Poet of the Highest Regard”. In the right side, we can see an allegorical sculpture representing Poetry mourning the loss of Italy’s Supreme Poet. On the left, allegorical sculpture of Italy, points to the seated figure of Dante.” (

Dante; father of the Italian language and poet who sings so beautifully we can see heaven from his words. Dante, I salute you and long for the day I can sit at your feet and hear you speak.

P1030891“Galileo Galilei (Italian: [ɡaliˈlɛːo ɡaliˈlɛi]; 15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian polymath: astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician.

He played a major role in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. His contributions to observational astronomy include the telescopic confirmation of the phases of Venus, the discovery of the four largest satellites of Jupiter (named the Galilean moons in his honour), and the observation and analysis of sunspots. Galileo also worked in applied science and technology, inventing an improved military compass and other instruments.” (

A grateful world remembers you, Galileo, thank you!

The Basilica di Santa Croce was a bittersweet visit; one can’t visit Florence without being struck by the Italian Renaissance; everything changed, the world would never be the same because God placed so many great people in one place at one time.

P1030942Church of Santa Maria Novella

“Architecturally, it is one of the most important Gothic churches in Tuscany. The exterior is the work of Fra Jacopo Talenti and Leon Battista Alberti. The interior holds extraordinary works of art including Masaccio’s Trinità, Ghirlandaio’s fresco cycle in the Tornabuoni Chapel and Giotto’s Crucifix, among others.” (

P1030902Church of Santa Maria Novella, it takes your breath away.





P1030908The crucified and risen Savior



P1030911When I left the Santa Maria Novella, I wanted to go to the The Basilica of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito (The Basilica of Mary of the Holy Spirit), but it was on the other side of the Arno and I was feeling tired and dispirited because there was so much to see and my time had run out. The horseback riding was fun but it probably took more energy than I had expected, I thought I’d wander back toward my hotel.

Everywhere in Italy, there is always a church to bring calm and peace. As I roamed back toward my hotel after giving up on making it to the river, I saw an incongruent glass door in the side of an ancient stone building. As I looked more closely, I made out the word “chiesa” (church), so out of curiosity, I decided to check it out. They were having “adoration”, a time of silent prayer and meditation, it was exactly what I needed! I went in for an hour and when I came out, I felt rejuvenated and ready to explore more. There’s always a church when you need one. Then, I wandered through the Piazza della Repubblica.

P1030793I joined the crowds on the stairway, ate a gelato and watched the people go by.

Then as I made my way to my hotel I came upon the Bargello Museum and it was still open! Why not?  I asked myself.

P1030914The term “Bargello” seems to come from the Latin for castle or fortified tower.



P1030916Mercury by Giambalogna

Donatellos DavidDavid by Donatello

P1030921Bacchus by Giambalogna

P1030923Ghiberti’s original bronze doors designed for the Baptistery: The Gates of Heaven





P1030931This small dome came to light during the enlargement of the museum in 2012, it is important proof of the spina-pesca (herring bone) technique used on the big dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore. This alternation in the laying of bricks creates wedges able to lock already-laid bricks in place, preventing slippage.

P1030933An illustration of Dante’s Inferno.

P1030934Florence is so rich in history, art, architecture, natural beauty and delicious food that I really needed another day. But, now I must say goodbye to Florence and head to the beautiful town of Siena.