The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor Conventual in Assisi, a town in the Umbria region in central Italy, where Saint Francis was born and died. It is a Papal minor basilica and one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy. With its accompanying friary, Sacro Convento, the basilica is a distinctive landmark to those approaching Assisi. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.
The basilica, which was begun in 1228, is built into the side of a hill and comprises two churches (known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church) and a crypt, where the remains of Saint Francis are interred. The Upper and Lower Churches are decorated with frescoes by numerous late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools, and include works by Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti and possibly Pietro Cavallini. The range and quality of the works give the basilica a unique importance in demonstrating the outstanding development of Italian art of this period, especially if compared with the rest of Christian Europe.
The Franciscan friary (Sacro Convento) and the Lower and Upper Basilicas (Italian: Basilica inferiore e superiore) of Francis of Assisi were begun in honor of this local saint, immediately after his canonization in 1228. Simone di Pucciarello donated the land for the church, a hill at the west side of Assisi, known as “Hill of Hell” (Italian: Colle d’Inferno) where previously criminals were put to death. Today, this hill is called “Hill of Paradise”.
In 1818, the remains of Saint Francis were rediscovered beneath the floor of the Lower Basilica. In the reign of Pope Pius VII the crypt was built so that the faithful might visit the burial place of the saint.
On 27 October 1986 and January 2002, Pope John Paul II gathered in Assisi with more than 120 representatives of different religions and Christian denominations for a World Day of Prayer for Peace.
For more information on the frescoes, please see