The wonderful Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels (Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli) is located in the town bearing its name, in the plain at the foot of the hill of Assisi.
It is worldwide famous for being one of the largest Christian churches (126x65x75m.) as well as the heart of the Franciscan spirituality, the first works of its construction began in the second half of the 16th century after the designs of the architects Galeazzo Alessi, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola and Giulio Danti who worked together with the purpose of creating a sacred destination able to incorporate the small Chapel Portiuncula (Chiesa della Porziuncola) totally restored by St. Francis of Assisi (San Francesco d'Assisi) and the Chapel of Transito (Cappella del Transito), the humble infirmary where He died, moreover as place of worship, it was conceived to house vast numbers pilgrims coming from all over the world, thanks to this project the venerable and humble chapels survived over the centuries; the works of this imposing building in the Baroque style progressed very slowly (it took more than one century), a number of renovations and restorations were undertaken in the 18th and 19th centuries, new architectural elements added due to a variety of reasons including the devastating earthquake in 1832.
According to Francis' thought embracing a life of poverty and simplicity, the interior is simple and yet elegant, rich in artistic masterpieces consisting of three naves in neoclassical Doric style with side chapels, a semi-circular apse, a wooden choir dating back to the 18th century and the wonderful papal altar, all around is decorated with splendid frescoes with a variety of dates, works of important artists.
But the true treasure is the above-mentioned Church Portiuncula (meaning 'small portion of land'), also named St. Mary of Portiuncula (Santa Maria della Porziuncola), the cradle of the Franciscan Order and, perhaps, Saint Francis' most beloved place; since it became a Holy Relic, this so small chapel has lost part of its original form due to a number of restoration works but still preserves the life and the history of the Saint of Assisi and makes day by day His message of pardon, reconciliation and grace of forgiveness even greater; it is located just under the basilica's large dome among the naves and the presbytery and decorated with superb frescoes dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries, a splendid gothic tabernacle surmounts the roof; another sacred place of high spiritual value protected by the basilica is the Chapel of Transito, humble source of inspiration for all Franciscans, its door is the original one, the chapel is rich in frescoes and includes the altar with a terracotta statue of the Poverello by Della Robbia (end of the 15th century) and a transparent shrine containing Francis'girdle.
The domed skyscraper of Galeazzo Alessi and the splendid gold-plated statue of the Madonna of the Angels (Madonna degli Angeli) by the sculptor Colasanti (1930) proudly dominate the surrounding landscape also rich in other very splendid sacred places such as the wonderful rose garden related to a particular St. Francis' event (since then roses without thorns have been grown in the garden), the Rose Chapel (Cappella delle Rose), where St. Francis rested and spent hours in prayer and penance, decorated with a variety of frescoes by the Umbrian Tiberio d'Assisi, or the new crypt, the library annexed to the ancient monastery full of old and valued documents and manuscripts, the Pilgrims' Fountain (Fontana del Pellegrino), the noteworthy Museum of the Porziuncola and the Wailing Chapel (Cappella del Pianto), all deeply spiritual and worth a visit!