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[image ALT: missingALT. It is a view of the façade of the Basilica of S. Francesco in Assisi, Umbria (central Italy).]

The façade of the upper church of S. Francesco.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a view of the interior of the upper church of S. Francesco in Assisi, Umbria (central Italy).]

Photo © Alan R. Zeleznikar:
for the full-sized version, see his site.

The photos on this page were taken a very few years ago. Yet between then and today, on September 26, 1997, there was a major earthquake: while it did rather little damage to the town of Assisi, the basilica stands on an artificial platform, a sort of cantilever really; on that day, it resonated six times as much as the rest of the town, and part of the vault of the upper church came crashing down, killing four people and destroying one of the few paintings we had by Cimabue, now replaced by a quadrant of white plaster, which you can see prominently in the photo the right, taken in 2000.

Umbria and Assisi have seen dozens of relatively strong quakes since the church was built: surviving for centuries, why was it so badly damaged in our own time? Some people lay the blame on a 1950s restoration, in which the elastic wooden beams of the roof were replaced by heavier and less elastic concrete.

Although homes and businesses thruout Umbria and the Marche were destroyed by the quake, as well as many other churches and monuments, an accelerated program was set in motion to restore S. Francesco, which is Italy's first tourist destination outside Rome. Although much of the detailed structural damage has not yet been repaired, and the fragments of Cimabue's frescoes still lie in boxes by the tens of thousands (and despite much talk and work and heartbreak, will probably never be put together again), the essentials have been dealt with and the church is now receiving visitors again.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a view of the Basilica and Sacro Convento of S. Francesco in Assisi, Umbria (central Italy).]

The huge cantilevered structure
supporting the Basilica and the Sacro Convento.

Of the interior of the Basilica I have no photos of my own, because on my three visits to it, I didn't have the guts to ignore the ban on taking any. So for better pages on S. Francesco (and properly authorized photos!) you'll have to go offsite, starting very likely with the Basilica's own website, linked below.

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Page updated: 4 Dec 17