Medieval town in Umbria, Italy, 19 km/12 mi southeast of Perugia, in the foothills of the Apennines overlooking the Tiber Valley; population (2001) 25,300. It is a long-established place of pilgrimage. St Francis was born here and is buried in the Franciscan monastery, completed in 1253. Its basilica was adorned with frescoes by Giotto, Cimabue, Cavallini, and others. Assisi was severely damaged by two earthquakes which hit central Italy in late September 1997, crippling the town's economy which had been dependent on tourism.
Over 30,000 in the region were left homeless, and the basilica of St Francis, regarded as one of the masterpieces of Western civilization, was in ruins after two ceiling vaults caved in. One fresco by Cimabue and another by Giotto, considered one of Italy's greatest artworks, were smashed after falling 22 m/72 ft; others were severely damaged.
In all about 56 sq m/600 sq ft of ceiling frescoes were destroyed, over 10,000 sq m/100,000 sq ft damaged, and the whole basilica structure rendered unstable and in need of reinforcement. Attempts to restore the frescoes have involved sieving meticulously through over 1,000 crates of rubble, and placing the fragments of coloured plaster on full-sized reproductions.
Local groups have been set up to aid the inhabitants and revitalize the town's economy, one aim being to reduce Assisi's over-dependency on tourism.
Other notable buildings include a 13th-century cathedral, a castle, and several palaces. The church of Sta Chiara (1260) contains the body of St Clare, foundress of the order of Poor Clares. The poet Metastasio (1698–1782) was born here.
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