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Ancona, Assisi and Rome Tuesday 14 February 1893

The train left Ancona for Rome at 8 25 am and around noon arrived at the town of Foligno, the junction for Assisi.  As all the pilgrims wanted to visit Assisi they paid an extra fee and their section of the train was shunted onto that line and they soon found themselves at the station in Assisi.

View on the way up the mountain to Assisi

The first place they visited was the Church of St Mary of the Angels which contained the celebrated shrine known as the ‘Portiuncula’ – little church.    

In the year 513 some hermits went from Palestine to Italy.  They settled in the valley of Spoleto and built a small church.  One day when St Francis of Assisi was a boy walking along the road he saw the little chapel which had fallen into ruins.  He entered it and knelt down to pray.  As he did so he felt something within him which he couldn’t explain.  He resolved to separate himself as much as possible from the world and frequently visited the Church of St Damian near the town of Assisi.  One evening while kneeling in prayer before a large crucifix it appeared to him that a voice came from it which said ‘Go, Francis, repair my house which is falling into ruins’.  He believed this meant the church he was in and accordingly he began the work of restoration of St Damian’s which was completed in 1206.  As he believed he had exhausted the generosity of the people of Assisi he fixed up his residence close to the ‘Portiuncula’ and, with the aid of a few pious workmen, began to restore it with his own hands.  The little chapel was regarded as the Mother Church of the Franciscan Order.  



The pilgrims were shown the cell of St Francis and the room in which he died.  The heart of the saint is enshrined in the Basilica while the cord he wore and a large portion of his habit are preserved in the reliquary.  Although they would have lingered at the Basilica the pilgrims had to continue to Assisi.   

The Cathedral Church of Assisi is in reality three churches rising one above the other. 

In the lowest one rests the body of St Francis;

above that rises the second church, a vaulted massive building, with rows of thick, low pillars, and few windows. 

In this church are the tombs of six disciples of St Francis. 

The upper church is wide, beautiful and full of light.  

The pilgrims next went to the reliquary to see a portion of the veil worn by the Blessed Virgin.  It had been brought to Assisi in 1628.  They were permitted to pass around and kiss the relic one after the other.

The Second Order of St Francis – the Poor Clares – was founded by St Clare, born in Assisi on 14 February 1193 and received into the order by St Francis in 1212.  Her sister Agnes soon joined her.  Later a bohemian princess joined the Poor Clares, and by her influence the Order was spread throughout Bohemia and Germany.  St Clare died in 1253 and her incorrupt body is still preserved in the Church of St Damian at Assisi.

By 4 30 pm the pilgrims were once again on their way towards Rome.  The train needed three powerful engines to climb up the steep mountains and by 9 pm it was pulling to the Eternal City.  The excited, weary pilgrims were taken to the Irish College.




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