Over three thousand years ago Umbrian migrants arrived in northern Italy building fortified settlements on high ground in the central highlands, which is partly still known as Umbria. The Etruscans gradually took over control of the area from around 450 BCE, until beaten in 295 BCE by the Romans at the Battle of Sentinum.


The Roman town of Asisium was constructed on the side of Monte Subasio. A few Roman remains still exist in Assisi, a travertine arch, the remaining arches of a theatre, a villa with well preserved frescoes and mosaics, and a Temple of Minerva (or maybe Hercules) built in the first years of the common era.


In 238 CE Christianity arrived in Assisi, in 545 King Totila's Ostogoths arrived with worst effect, they destroyed the town. They were followed by the Lombards, before the Franks brought Assisi under the control of the Holy Roman Empire.


During the 6th century Benedictine monks converted the Temple of Minerva to the church of San Donato,  following the outlawing of Paganism in the 5th century.


In the 11th century Italy became divided between supporters of the Holy Roman Empire and those of the pope. Assisi became an independent Ghibelline town in constant conflict with the city of Perugia.


It was at the battle of Ponte San Giovanni that Francesco di Bernardone, a soldier born in Assisi, was taken prisoner. This event was to trigger his formation of the Friars Minor of St Francis in 1208, who turned their backs on the world and accepted a life of poverty. In the 13th century the city grew rapidly under papal jurisdiction and expanded beyond its original Roman walls.


The converted Temple of Minerva was used as headquarters by the Commune of Assisi during the 13th century, and until 1456 it was used as the municipal jail, before reverting to the church of San Donato.


When the Renaissance arrived in the 16th century, attitudes changed and classical Pagan architecture came into vogue and restoration of ancient sites became obligatory, the pope had the temple restored and rededicated as the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, however its rectangular cella was destroyed.


The friars of St Francis had the church given to them in 1613 by the Bishop of Assisi.


The feudal fortress of Rocca Maggiore, built around 1174, stands high above the World Heritage Site of the 13th century Basilica of St Francis of Assisi, on the western slopes of Mount Subasio dominating the town. The fort was destroyed during an uprising of inhabitants seeking independence from Perugia in 1198, but was rebuilt in 1367 using stones from the curtain walls.


In 1485 the ruler of the town of that period ordered the construction of the tower and the long connection wall; Pope Sixtus IV restored the keep in 1478 and Pope Paul III erected in 1535-38 the circular tower near the entrance.



Italian Tour



Upper Basilica


Part of Monastery Complex


Temple of Minerva


Rocca Maggiore


Assisi from Mount Subasio


Main Street


The Cathedral