Pax et Bonum
If there was any doubt of which train was going to Assisi from Roma Termini, it was wiped out by the presence of a dozen Friars in brown robes waiting too. Little did I realize that my trip coincided with a couple thousand Franciscans descending on Assisi for the Chapter of the Mats Conference, the international meeting that's been occurring every 10 years since the 13th century -- the mats referring to what the delegates slept on.
I'm not sure that's still the case in 2009. It was a little bit surreal seeing them wandering in groups around town, wearing cowboy hats or snapping photos and licking gelato cones just like the rest of us tourists. In the beginning, I had fun including them in photos for 'local color.' After a while, though, it was kind of like photographing wildlife in Africa: the 1,089th giraffe has to be standing on its head for you to bother taking a picture.
St. Francis himself started the tradition of greeting each other with "Pax et Bonum" (peace and good). So, you see that mantra plastered all over town, especially on ceramic tiles.
The Basilica di San Francesco is quite imposing, both upper and lower churches. I loved a description I read of the frescoes on every piece of available plaster, that the upper church was "wallpapered by Giotto." It really is jaw-dropping. It was nice to be able to go into the lower church at 6.45am, before the tour groups started arriving an hour later.
I also followed the 4km path down to the town of Santa Maria degli Angeli (it was the Fransicans who were allowed to name those small Californian burgs of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Clara) to the Porzioncula, "the little portion" that the Benedictine's allowed St. Francis to have when he started out. The actual little chapel is preserved inside the vast basilica. Eight seats. Now thousands passing through daily, if the day I went was typical. Not much 'pax' but totally 'bonum.'
© Copyright 2009 Susan K. Miller. All Rights Reserved.