Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Assisi to Cascia to Ascoli Piceno

December 27, 2014

We left Assisi and drove to Ascoli Pecino.  It was a cold, cold day.  The combination of humidity and cold air in Italy permeates to the very core of your body.  We were in the very northern part of our mission and high in the mountains.  It was cold and windy and we saw lots of snow, something we have never seen in Rome.

Basilica of Santa Maria

St. Rita is famous because as a small baby some bees flew in her mouth but never stung her.  There are lots of bee things in Cascia.

This area is known for it's truffles (tartufa).

The Umbria region of Italy specializes in wild boar products.

You can buy all kinds of pork products in Italy, but I have never seen a pig yet.  This is the closest thing I've seen and it was made from plaster and staked up as a display.

Oh, the sights and sounds of Italy!  You have to love it.

We just had to stop and buy some onions.

Main Piazza in Ascoli Pecino

President did a scambi (exchange) with the elders in Ascoli Pecino and then bought them a hamburger.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Assisi - Santa Maria degli Angeli

December 27, 2014

One of the largest, most beautiful churches in Assisi is the Santa Maria degli Angeli (Santa Maria of the Angels).

The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Saint Mary of the Angels) is a church situated in the plain at the foot of the hill of Assisi, Italy.  The basilica was constructed  between 1569 and 1679 enclosing the 9th century little church, the Porziuncola, the most sacred place for the Franciscans. It was here that the young Francis of Assisi understood his vocation and renounced the world in order to live in poverty among the poor and thus started the Franciscan movement.

The Porziuncola

The Porziuncola.

The chiesetta (little church) of Porziuncola (Italian for "Little portion") is the most sacred place for Franciscans.  Francis was given this little church, dating from the 9th century, by the Benedictine monks.


According to a legend, the Porziuncola was built in the 4th century by a group of hermits from Palestine using stones coming from Monte Subasio. It is a tiny space measuring just 7 by 4 metres with a small apse. In 576 it was the home for the friars of Saint Benedict. The Porziuncola was the third church Francis refurbished after he had a vision and it became his favourite place. There, Clare renounced temporal goods embracing a life of poverty; there Francis died on the evening of 3 October 1226.

Despite its small size, the Porziuncola has always been the destination for a large number of pilgrims; many of them travelling there just to obtain a plenary indulgence (forgiveness of all sins) achieved solely by entering the small church. It is not by chance that the entrance door is out of proportion compared with the tiny building: it was widened in 1900 to provide easier access to the increasing crowds of pilgrims.

Live dove inside basket

The basilica was filled with nativities from all over the world.


Assissi is the birthplace of St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan religious order in 1208, and St. Clare (Chiara d'Offreducci), the founder of the Poor Sisters, which later became the Order of Poor Clares after her death. The 19th-century St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was also born in Assisi.

Now the site of many a pilgrimage, Assisi is linked in legend with its native son, St. Francis. The gentle saint founded the Franciscan order and shares honors with St Catherine of Siena as the patron saint of Italy.  He is remembered by many, even non-Christians, as a lover of nature (his preaching to an audience of birds is one of the legends of his life).

Looking at Rose Window at Basilica of St. Francis.

This is a man President knew 45 years ago when he was serving in Italy.  He lives near Assisi and teaches at a university there.

Nativity next to Basilica of St. Francis

This is a picture of Mary and the baby Jesus with St. Francis on the left and John the Beloved on the right.  Legend has it that when Jesus was asked which of the two saints he preferred most, Mary indicated with her thumb that it should be St. Francis.

Original public bath in Assisi.  If you bathed without clothes, there was a huge fine.

Temple of Minerva

Only President could get excited about a potato nativity.

Duomo of Assisi

The castle sits on the very top of the mountain in Assisi.

View of basilica from castle above

At one time St. Francis' father had him chained in the basement of their house that used to be at this same location because he was preaching things his father didn't agree with.

Basilica of St. Francis at night.