Posts Tagged ‘Santa Chiara’


You can see Assisi from a distance, it sits majestically up on a hill.  We arrived on a very hot afternoon, did I say this town was on a hill? Assisi is basically a small town   anchored by two magnificent basilicas. The first one we visited was the Basilica of Santa Chiara, home of the Order of The Poor Clares. No photo taking allowed!

We had a great guide who told us the story of Chiara d’Offreducci, a young woman from an upper class family. Devoted to prayer from an early age, at age 18, she heard of St. Francis and on Palm Sunday in 1212 she met with him and asked for guidance to live her life according to the Gospel.  She cut her hair and traded her fine gown for a plain robe and veil.  She went from a Benedictine Convent to living in dwelling next to the Church of San Damiano.


Home of The Poor Clares

Her sister joined her and eventually other women joined her to live a life of poverty of no money, no shoes, no meat.

Assisi is a beautiful town, the buildings are all pink and white, the stone is quarried in the the region.


Pink and white bricks almost look painted!


The artistry in using the shading of the stones is fantastic!


My “art” photo – capturing the top of a castle and the cupola.

Just one STRIPE photo


Much of Assisi has been rebuilt and repaired from earthquake damage.

Up the hill and thankfully making our way down, we head toward the Basilica of St. Francis.


The Basilica of St Francis

Again no photos allowed. The interior of this church was vast with two wings and a few altars. This Basilica houses the only known actual image of St. Francis.   St. Francis founded the Franciscan Order Of Monks, who live in poverty, own nothing and to this day wear the garb of the simple brown robe with a rope tie and sandals.  Barbara took these photos, (I think she liked the monks).


And there was a monk walking among us.


A Franciscan monk in the shadows


Facade of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

This ancient church in the photo above was built over a Roman age temple.

Italy doesn’t need a Landmarks Commission to protect their history, every Italian is proud of their heritage and when some piece of antiquity is discovered it is always preserved! Since Assisi has been reconstructed in certain areas over time due to earthquake damage, much of it is not medieval BUT here and there pieces of history exist.  Here is a wall that is still standing from about 300BC!!


Romans built these walls

Besides being the perfect frame for a beautiful Italian countryside view, the arch is part of earlier historical construction!


Historical Beauty

Now why the title of this blog? I was dismayed that the main road through Assisi leading you from one Basilica to the other is lined with tourist shops; statues and crosses carved from olive wood ( the town owns acres and acres of olive groves ), St. Francis and St. Chiara branded in every form imaginable, lots of embroidery, and Italian souvenirs of every kind. I thought it was sad and wondered how Francis and Clare felt about it?

To Be Continued…







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Mussolini made the trains run on time

On a very sunny Saturday Joel, Raffaele and I took a morning train to Naples.  I’ve always wanted to see it and last year Joel didn’t get to go very many places because of my broken foot, so we’re off.  I asked Raffaele to join us because I could not imagine wandering around there in the heat and not knowing how to get anywhere. The night before I told Raffaele what I wanted to see and we planned accordingly.

We got on the train in Telese and changed in Caserta for a train To Naples. No one collected out tickets. When we arrived at the station Raffaele said we should buy tickets for the underground so we would not have to so much walking.  The underground line we needed wasn’t running! We were told to take a bus across the street.  We waited and waited and waited and waited as many buses stopped and picked up people but none were the right bus for us.  Finally it arrived and it was insane to try to get on the bus. Even a rush hour Number 6 subway doesn’t get this jammed. A young man offered me his seat which meant he had to stand but not on the floor, the seats are slightly raised so he teetered on the edge. More people tried to get and at each stop people on the bus yelled at them to get off the doors would not close! Then the man sitting next to me brings a photo up on his phone and points to a man standing just in front of Raffaele- He is a known pickpocket and the police publish his photo to warn the public, OMG.  No tickets were collected.

I wanted to see The Veiled Christ, so after buying tickets, we stood in line. Once in you are warned repeatedly not to take any photos.

Magnificent Sculpture
The Veiled Christ
Giuseppe Sanmartino

It was a very moving experience – you slowly circled the roped off sculpture with a small group of people (they only allow so many in at a time) and you hear the intake of breaths, and the exclamations as the viewers see the extraordinary artistry of this piece.; The veil with its myriad delicate folds and draping, then the hands, then the bones  and the veins and you marvel at how this could have been done out of marble?

After that we needed to ground ourselves with some food, so we stopped at Toto and Peppino’s, a nice little restaurant where we could sit outside in the shade and have some pizza (what else?) and insalata.  FYI Toto and Peppino were a famous Italian pair of comedic actors much like Abbott and Costello.

Next,  The National Archeological Museum Of Naples.  I said I only wanted to see the Pompeii exhibit, however, apparently we had to walk through some sculptures of god and goddesses which were impressive.  I think Raffaele was disappointed in my lack of enthusiasm for the sculpture so I had to play the sort of American no European really likes, and tell him about Metropolitan Museum Of Art in New York and how it is FILLED with sculpture and paintings that I have seen many times.  He, however, was curious about the MET. Was it larger than this? Yes very much so. Does it have other cultures represented? Yes, floors dedicated to ancient civilizations, whole wings of Medieval armory, Egyptian pyramids, and on and on. I think I will send him a book about our wonderful museum.


You can see the burned areas of the mosaic


Quite intact mosaic

I was actually not pleased the Pompeii exhibit since it was primarily a lot of paintings and mosaics, all marvelous and obviously salvaged from the homes of wealthy Pompeiians.  I had hoped to see every day household items.  However there was one glass case filled with the most amazing measuring instruments.  There were brass ball plumb lines,  a primitive form of a protractor and other devices used in far future centuries.

There was also some erotic art on display along with some instruments of torture and a box full of anatomical body parts used to beseech the gods for various favors such as childbirth.


Sex has been around a long time


Zeus misbehaving as a swan

Then we have Zeus who liked to,transform  himself into various creatures and disguises so he could have his way with women, presumably those who were married to some mortal man.

We still had two churches to go and the famed Christmas Alley ( where all the the tchotchkes are sold and some of the Neoplolitan Christmas figurines.

First stop Chiese di Gesu Nuevo; This is by far the most baroque church I have ever been in.  It is overwhelmingly gilded and marbled and is that all in the name of glory to God? Neither Joel or Raffaele loved it.  I thought it was an over the top statement for sure but there was wedding about to be held when we were there. The whit carpet was rolled out, the altar was full of white flowers and I think that bride was one fortunate girl to have her wedding performed in such a grand place.


The Church of New Jesus Gesu Nuevo

At the other end of the spiritual expression of faith was the Chiese de Santa Chiara.  A lovely church, simple and dignified yet filled with spectacular stained glass windows, of which there was none in the baroque church.  AND there was wedding about to be held here too.  We saw the bride outside the church with her father and respectively waited till the bridal party made their way down the aisle and we followed them in.  Sitting off to the side we listened to the Mass in Italian and it was beautiful.


Joel in Santa Chiara’s Church


Saint Chiara above the altar Beautiful,stained glass

After a swift trip through Christmas Alley looking and poking through booth after booth pretty much selling the same things, we headed to the train station.  Our route took us down an infamous street named Forchella, an area known for the black market  cigarette trade now, but gangland shootings in the days when the camorra ruled the neighborhood.  I saw women with wooden boxes with lids hawking cigarettes and then when the siren of the approaching polizia could be heard as he tried vainly to get his vehicle up the street, the lids closed! The police had difficulty coming up the street because the people, the cars and the ever-present motorcycles did not open a path for it.

Finally on the train to Caserta.  At Caserta we were to connect to Telese BUT no train.  We waited and waited and waited and finally Raffaele tracked (pun intended) down an official who explained that the train was late due to police action farther back on the line. 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes….the train arrives and we are on our way home, it is late, dark and we’re hungry.

Oh well, they said, Mussolini made the trains run on time!

To Be Continued…




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