Convent and Church of St. Damiano
The church and convent of St. Damiano are not far from the historical centre of Assisi.
The church, which was constructed between the VIII and the IX century to honour the physician-saint Damiano, was an important Benedictine Priory in 1030, after which it was very gradually abandoned.
It was here that St. Francis first heard Christ speak to him from the Cross. The Cross, which is now housed in the Basilica of St. Clare, told Francis to "go and repair my house which, as you can see, is in ruins" (alluding to the state of the church itself). Francis's vocation got strength and confirmation from this episode.
Francis himself was the first to renovate this church, and it was here that, in 1212, he received Claire and her companions and wrote the Cantico of the Creatures.
The Poor Claires built a small dormitory here and remained in residence until 1260, not long after Claire passed away.
The simple façade of the church is preceded by a wide portico. On the upper wall is the door from which Claire chased away the Saracens by showing them the monstrance.
Below the portico, to the right, is the Chapel of St. James graced with frescoes by Tiberio d'Assisi (1517) depicting the Madonna with Child with St. Francis, St. Claire, St. James and St. Bernard. On the back wall are St. Sebastian and St. Rocco (1522).
There is only one nave and as you enter, to the right, you can see the window from which Francis threw the money he had refused for the restoration of the church. The episode was painted by an unknown XIV century painter.
A bit further on is the XVI century chapel that houses the wooden cross, inlaid by Innocenzo da Palermo in 1637. On one side you can see two painted glass panels depicting the Cantico of the Creatures.
The relics altar is home to the ivory box in which Claire kept the Holy Sacrament.
The conch of the church's apse is embellished with frescoes done by an unknown XIV century Umbrian painter and features St. Damiano, St. Rufino and a Madonna with Child. Below it is a wooden choir dating to 1504.
Above the main altar is the Crucifix that spoke to Francis.
The Sacristy is located next to the church and inside is the small room in which Francis hid when his father chased him.
A stairway leads to an oratory with a small apse where Claire stayed when she was unwell. The frescoes that adorn it date to the XIV century.
A few steps further up and you'll reach the dormitory where a cross marks the place where she died on 11 August 1253.
One of the scenes painted by Giotto on the wall of the Upper Basilica of St. Francis depicts the moment the Christ spoke to Francis from the cross inside the Church of St. Damiano when it was still in ruins.
Just about a kilometre on foot from the historical centre of Assisi, over the Nuova bridge, you walk along Viale Vittorio Emanuele for a bit and then turn left at Santuraggio. A short while later you'll reach the square that leads to the convent of St. Damiano.
From the historical centre and the train station you can take either a taxi or a public APM bus.
Only a few vehicles can park on the small square in front of the church.
The convent has visiting hours. For more information, please contact the IAT office in Assisi.