Assisi (äs-sēˈzē) [key], town (1991 pop. 24,626), Umbria, central Italy. A religious and tourist center, it stands on a hill in the Apennines with an expansive view of the plains below. Although well known in Roman times and throughout the Middle Ages, it owes its modern fame chiefly to St. Francis of Assisi, who was born there in 1182 and died there in 1226. Above his tomb is the basilica of St. Francis—two Gothic churches (both consecrated 1253) decorated with frescoes depicting the life of the saint and other scenes, executed by Cimabue, Giotto, Martini, and others. The basilica was severely damaged in a 1997 earthquake but reopened in 1999 after partial restoration. The Franciscan convent nearby has a valuable library. Other landmarks in Assisi are the Cathedral of San Rufino (begun 1140), the Church of Santa Chiara (1257–65), and a 14th-century castle. In the plain below is the imposing late-Renaissance Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli (1569–1679), built around the little chapel of Porziuncola, where St. Francis relinquished active leadership of his order. Also nearby are the Carceri Hermitage (15th cent.) and the Convent of San Damiano (begun 11th cent.).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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