Assisi Pilgrimage Posted on January 21st, 2011 by

Being in Assisi feels like being in another time.

The entire city is constructed of stone and most of it is a “fleshy pink” colored brick from the area (reminiscent of the Minnesota River Valley Kasota stone present in some Gustavus Adolphus College buildings).

The architecture of Assisi ranges from Medieval (Rocca Maggiore) and Romnesque (Duomo Di Santa Rufino) to Gothic (Basilica Di Santa Chiara). And these spaces — particularly the basilicas have significant artwork, including those of the greatest painters of the 13th and 14th century:  Cimabue, Giotto, and Simone Martini.

Masterpieces from all 3 of these artists are in one room in the Basilica Di Santa Francesco’s lower church complex.  Giotto is said to be the first to paint people in 3 dimension (rather than 2) and to show human emotion in the subjects’ faces.

Entering the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. (Photo by Stacia Vogel)

This early Renaissance artist lived years before Michelangelo who painted the Sistine Chapel and carved the Pieta — both of which were seen in Rome by the choir and the companion tour.

The art of both Giotto and Michelangelo were studied in class earlier this month on campus.

And, inexpensive re-creations of some of Giotto’s religious paintings adorned campus for Christmas in Christ Chapel 2011: “An Italian Renaissance.”

Like Gustavus, Assisi is atop a hill and the vistas are remarkable. Early in the morning as the sun was rising, the valley was visible for miles.  In the distance, snow-capped mountains framed the bright-green valley sprinkled with stone homes and businesses.

A view from Assisi. (Photo by Stacia Vogel)

Although today was cold and mostly rainy (a few snowflakes fell periodically and in the evening the precipitation subsided), it was a pilgrimage.

Aside from seeing famous artworks, the day included learning more about St. Francis of Assisi, visiting his tomb in the lower part of the church that bear’s his name, and more.

In the sacred, historic spaces of the lower and upper church of St. Francis, the choir made beautiful music together. First, in 11 a.m. mass in the lower chapel. Then, spontaneously while touring the upper church that was built to celebrate resurrection rather than death.

As a special birthday gift to today’s guide, Friar Michael from Pennsylvania, the choir sang the Prayer of St. Francis near the back of the upper church where there’s a painting of St. Francis with the animals (birds).

But, the day didn’t end there. It also included time to eat, shop, and explore the city, before another evening concert. This performance was at another church further up the hill from the hotel, and it sounded even more magnificent than the last (audience and choir members agreed).

A significant portion of this Friday, Jan. 21 audience was a contingent from the University of St. Thomas. Yes, the St. Thomas that joins us in membership in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAC) and the Minnesota Private College Council. The Tommies were here studying theology.

The Gustavus Choir performs Friday, Jan. 21 in Assisi


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