The church of St. Francis of Assisi rises up today in the place where the Saint had chosen to be buried, in the area of Assisi which was famous in the Middle Ages as the "hill of hell", or better the place that, at that time, was used for public executions.
The building site of the basilica of St. Francis of Assisi was opened in 1228 upon the desire of Pope Gregorio IX (Gregory IXth) and thanks to the activity of friar Elia, vicar of the Order chosen by St. Francis himself.
Only two years were needed to complete the architectonic structure of the inferior Basilica of Assisi and only other six to inaugurate the superior Basilica of St. Francis. The actual aspect is however the result of various interventions among which it is good to remember the realization of the belfry with rises (1239), the building of a portico in front of the inferior Basilica ('400) and a vestibule in stone still for the portal of the inferior Basilica (1445), the elimination of the rises of the belfry (1518).
The building is composed of two churches, one above the other.The upper church is of Gothic aspect,luminous and slender; the lower one, however, which one enters passing through a Gothic portal of the 13th century, is low and austere.
Here, the interior composed of one nave with transept, contains the extraordinary allegorical frecsoes" by Giotto, the "Madonna with Angels and St. Francis" and the "Five Saints" by Simone Martini, the "Episodes of the Life and the Passion of Christ", the "Madonna and Saints" and the "Stigmata of St. Francis" by Lorenzetti.
Other works by Simone Martini and Giotto are to be found respectively in the first chapel to the right with the "Life of Saint Martin" and in the third with "Saints and Stories of the Madonna".
In 1818, after the excavations under the altar, were brought back to light and after careful examination officially recognized, the remains of the Saint; only two years later, by order of Pope Pio IX, the building of the crypt was launched in neoclassical stile in the inferior Basilica. The actual aspect is however the result of a work of simplification that took place around 1920.
The upper church composed of only one nave with apsis and fine windows of the 13th century contains the frescoes of the cycle "The life of Saint" by Giotto, with the "Stories of the Old and the New Testaments" by the school of Cimabue, and in the transept, in the cross vault and in the apsis frescoes by the same Cimabue dating back to 1277 in addition to works of other maestro such as Cavallini and Torriti.
Opening hours of the Basilica are available on the official website of the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.