On to Siena and Assisi

The Fresno Pacific Alumni and Friends tour to Italy is just six weeks away.  We are going to a couple of special places.  First, we will take a side trip to Siena, a World Heritage Site. You can find out more about it at what has become a standby for getting oriented to a region or city in Italy, Italy Guides. 

It is said that you get a sense of both the medieval (on the outside of buildings) and the Renaissance (on the inside). On the Piazza del Campo, the main plaza, a horse race has been held every summer in since the middle ages. 

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Siena, Piazza del Campo

One place to visit is the birthplace of St. Catherine of Siena, a reformer and “Doctor” or official teacher of the Catholic Church, who convinced the pope to return the papal office from Avignon in France to Rome.  Christian History Magazine has a couple of articles about Catherine which are interesting and brief. 

Another, well known feature is the Palazzo Publico, the Town Hall, that dates to the fourteenth century. Inside is a series of paintings, The Allegory of Good and Bad Government.  Siena, like many of the cities of Italy, was a republic.  The Allegory illustrates graphically the justice and flourishing that were the goals of the city, and the opposite.

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The central painting of the Allegory, Justice in the center, under God, and Concord below.

On our travel from Florence to Rome, we will stop for a pilgrimage visit to the Umbrian town of Assisi, the home (Italy Guides again) of St. Francis.  Here we will have the chance to see the Basilicas of St. Francis and of St. Clare.  We will also see the Church of San Damiano, where Francis experienced his conversion to follow Christ.

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The San Damiano Cross, Christ reaching out with arms of hope.

St. Francis is one of the saints recognized by the Church worldwide. He was called even in his time, a second Christ because he seemed to follow Christ fully. Christian History magazine has a whole issue dedicated to St. Francis.And if you want more, there is a very good and beautifully illustrated little volume on him by Mark Galli, St. Francis of Assisi and His World which is available very cheaply—well worth it. 

Travel in itself can be something like a pilgrimage. Siena and Assisi are two cities where we just might experience hope and renewal, where we might be lifted out of the ordinary and our cynical world to something more profound.