Apart from the Basilica of San Francesco, Assisi is the home of numerous churches including two former cathedral churches.
The original cathedral was San Rufino in the Piazza San Rufino. It is dedicated to St. Rufinus who originally brought Christianity to Assisi. The nave isn’t wearing its age very well as the walls have lost their frescos. When we visited, the apse was closed for repairs but the marble altar stood in front of the tented area and is very large as are the side altars under each of which there is a sarcophagus. A lot of people pass on the crypt and the displays below the church, deterred by the 3 Euro fee. Unfortunately, many of them also pass by the magnificent Capella del Sacramento which runs perpendicular to the church and is closed off by doors that you are actually expected to push open. That chapel was one of the high points of our visit to Assisi. It is brilliant with huge artworks on the walls, a completely decorated ceiling and an excess of gold leaf and marble. Do look up and see the cherubs and the seraphim statues on the ceiling. . . just wonderful, I can’t recommend it more.
The other former cathedral church is St. Maria Maggiore, but it is a shadow of what it must have been. Again, most of the frescoes are gone. The apse is stone in classical architecture. . . somewhat Byzantine. A three nave church, it is currently under renovation, but I can’t recommend it.
Santa Chiara (Saint Claire) Church is in the Piazza Santa Chiara. The visitor enters the 13th century Italian Gothic church through the Chapel of the Crucifix of San Damiano. . . small, wooden columns to the rear and a frescoed chancel. The main body of the church is a single nave and like San Francesco, features four arches on each side before the transept. It is, however, very plain except for the frescoes in the transept. The large marble altar is surrounded by Corinthian columns and an ironwork fence. . . in the ambulatory is a small organ case.
The one side chapel of Santa Chiara is of the Blessed Sacrament. So far, the church is pleasant, very similar to San Francesco, but without the ornamentation. It is the crypt that stands out here. In one section, you see a display of the relics of St. Claire and the personal possessions of Saint Francis, but the crypt proper is magnificent. It is a wonderful display of marble and contains an amazing marble chapel and antechamber. I can’t recommend the it highly enough.
A couple of small churches that you might drop into are the old Roman temple of Minerva, now an extremely beautiful small church dedicated to Santa Maria in the Piazza del Commune. The other is the Chiesa Nuova just off the piazza. It isn’t very nuova – it was built in 1615 on the site of what is now believed to be the home of St. Francis’ family. It is an interesting symmetrical church. . . the dome is in the center and the transepts, chancel and nave all appear to be the same length. Finally, peek into the Oratory of San Francesco Piccolino. This diminutive 13th century room with its Gothic ceiling is a humble a testament to faith and perhaps as powerful as the others are in their grandeur. This list is not complete. . . enjoy.