Basilica of St. Francis — Assisi, Italy

The Basilica of St. Francis is the mother church of the Franciscan Order. Pope Gregory IX laid the first stone of the Lower Basilica the day after the canonisation of St. Francis, on July 17, 1228. Two years later, the saint’s body was brought here in secret (for fear of looting by tomb raiders) and buried in the (then) unfinished church.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000, the grandiose, gorgeously embellished Basilica di San Francesco (Basilica of St. Francis) in Assisi is a rather incongruous memorial to a man who preached and lived a simple life of poverty, abstinence, and renunciation of worldly goods in search of greater spirituality.

Yet the bi-level basilica is one of the world’s focal points of both high art and intense spirituality. Still a major place of pilgrimage, the Basilica of St. Francis is a powerful place for believers and art-lovers alike, including Douglas and Dana Barlund of Penhold, Alta.

Photo courtesy of the Barlund family