Assisi Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels (Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli)
Though the lovely Mannerist style of the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli is striking, this church built on the plain below Assisi between 1569 and 1679 is important not for its own architecture but for what it holds inside. Commissioned by Pope Pio V to accommodate the growing influx of pilgrims, the basilica is home to the Porziuncola chapel, the spiritual heart of St. Francis’ first order; as well as the Cappella del Transito, where Francis died in 1226. Both these important Franciscan chapels are frescoed with scenes depicting the saint’s many visions. In addition, the basilica complex holds the Franciscan Rose Garden, where his thornless roses are said to have miraculously bloomed; and the Porziuncola Museum, founded by Franciscan friars in 1924 and exhibiting religious art and reliquaries from the 13th and 14th centuries.
Most day trips to Assisi include a stop at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli to visit the Porziuncola along with other Franciscan sights in the historic center, including Chiesa Nuova and the Basilica of Saint Francis. Assisi is a popular tourist destination from Rome and Florence, and itineraries may also include stops in the cities of Perugia or Orvieto, and along Lake Trasimeno.
Things to know before you go
- The basilica is quite large, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes if you plan to visit the entire complex.
- The church and adjacent monastery are accessible to wheelchairs.
- The Porziuncola is an important pilgrimage site, so modest clothing and solemn decorum are required.
- Photography without flash is allowed inside the basilica, but not inside the Porziuncola.
How to get there
The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli is located in the town of the same name that sits at the foot of the hill, with the historic center of Assisi perched above. You can easily walk from the train station, and then take a local bus up the hillside to the old town.
When to get there
The Porziuncola is one of the most sacred Franciscan sites, and there are often special Masses held on important dates like the Feast Day of St. Francis (October 4th) or religious holidays. The chapel and basilica can be very crowded at those times, and it may be impossible to get near the chapel.
A Massive Basilica for a Tiny Chapel
Designed by Perugian architect Galeazzo Alessi, Santa Maria degli Angeli is one of the biggest Christian churches in the world, measuring a whopping 126 m (413.25 ft) long and 65 m (213.25ft) wide. It has a soaring central nave and side aisles lined with chapels; frescoes by 18th-century artist Andrea Appiani adorn the walls of the basilica. The Porziuncola sits directly underneath the great central dome, and notable relics include the saint’s rope belt and a terracotta portrait by Andrea della Robbia, executed in 1490.
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