I understand this. If there's one thing that annoys me at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, it's a busload of noisy, nosy newcomers with Nikons (how's that for alliteration?) hanging off their bellies, wanting to save the moment by way of digital memories. Don't they know they'd be better off praying?
And now – I'm one of those tourists.
So I've been very careful, for the most part, to keep the camera stashed away while in the confines of a sacred space. And this is a hard thing to do, because a lot of churches in Europe are drop dead gorgeous. But they are also hallowed places of pilgrimage, and my camera will only detract from that experience.
But every once in a while, you get lucky: 1) a church with no tourists in it, because it's off the beaten path; 2) because it's off the beaten path, there are no signs or notices warning you to keep your camera packed away; and 3) the place is simply lovely and reeks of history and beautiful imagery.
Tourist books are important in this regard, because if you bone up and know what you're looking for, that luck might just visit you more often than if you just happened to stumble upon something.
Tucked away in a quiet little lane, as you're making your way westward toward the immense Basilica of San Francesco, there lies this little jewel... Actually, it's one of Assisi's oldest churches, still completely intact, still faithfully ringing its triune church bells, almost a thousand years after it was constructed of rugged limestone from the Umbrian countryside.
This church predates Saint Francis by nearly a hundred years, having been built in the late 1100's. But the intimacy and quiet witness of the structure cannot be denied. It is the Chiesa di San Stefano, the Church of St. Steven, first martyr of the Christian community. And legend has it (always believe the legends) that at the moment of St. Francis' death, these bells began to ring, unaccountably and miraculously.
So apologies for today's blog, where you might be expecting fabulous pictures of the Tomb of St. Francis or St. Clare! This photographer obeyed the signs...
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