The only snow I have had in Italy! We woke up to a thin blanket of the white stuff, and got to spend the day under a very gentle snowfall. We completed our tour of the town, which is more or less a stroll through the major churches, and stopping for another Umbrian five-course meal.
On the way down from the higher end of town where we start the day to the big Basilica of San Francesco, we stopped by the small, old church of San Stefano whose bells are said to have rung miraculously by themselves at the moment St. Francis died. In itself, the church is a testament to the simple style of the age, created without an architect, just the stonemasons putting together a basic design that would serve its purpose: a house for the church.
The Basilica San Francesco is massive, three stories from the crypt to the lower basilica to the upper, with two huge piazzas, one off of the upper and lower basilicas respectively. It was at this site that Pope John Paul II called his World Day of Prayer for Peace in 1986 and again in 2003, gathering leaders of every major Christian communion and of virtually every religion on the planet, from the Dalai Lama to First Nations peoples from the Pacific Northwest.
It is said that Francis was the first to use a presepe, a nativity scene or crèche, in commemoration of Christmas, and Italian churches go all out, especially in Assisi. An entire stable is converted for a life-size display near the Roman Amphitheatre, and the Piazza San Francesco also has a life-size display. Within every church we stopped at were scenes with sometimes hundreds of figures, rolling hills, light and water effects, sometimes music. In the Benedictine Abbey church of San Pietro, the lighting and sound effects were timed to give a full rotation of the day and night, with corresponding village sounds, birds, etc.