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Pilgrimage to Assisi – June 2007

A welcome return, for our parishioners, to the city of St Francis.

Assisi, set in the spectacular hills of Umbria, has a population of 25,000 of whom 6,000 live in the ancient centre. It attracts several million visitors a year. St Francis is honoured in the basilica begun on the day he was canonised in 1228 - two years after his death, and four years after he received the stigmata.

Julia writes: "Each of the pilgrims has been asked to give one sentence or line to sum up the week for them. This is very difficult as the week is very tightly packed with visits, Masses, meals, walking, etc. (Photos by Julia and Ziggi)

Francis was born in 1181 of a well-to-do family and became a soldier, but with a lifelong regard for the poor. He was never ordained priest, but was vowed to poverty, and founded the Franciscan order which later became associated with St Clare of the Poor Clares.

If Francis is best known for his founding of the Franciscans, and his love of animals, he also took his pastoral mission into battle. Once, during a war, he showed courage in visiting a hostile Muslim sultan, seeking to convert him. He perhaps foretold the need for rapprochement between the faiths, and won the sultan's respect, who acknowledged the strength of his Christian faith, while never giving up his own.

Francis' death at the age of 45 came after a life of extraordinary achievement, self sacrifice and pastoral vigour. His canonisation was swift and the devotion to his ideals remains strong worldwide. See a fuller account of his remarkable life in New Advent.