(Last updated November 3, 1997)
world was stunned September 26 by the news that two earthquakes
in central Italy left 10 people dead, including two Franciscan
friars in Assisi, and inflicted serious damage on parts of the
famed Basilica of St. Francis (file photos shown here).
was inflicted upon other pilgrimage sites in Assisi, according
to a communique from the Order of Friars
to strike the region throughout October, further damaging the
basilica and other buildings and injuring 20 people in the region,
according to news reports. The region was still struggling to
cope with the first quakes, which had left more than 5,000 people
homeless. It is estimated that up to 42,000 people in Umbria and
Marche regions had been sleeping outside after the first quakes.
31 letter to pilgrims from Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs
in Milwaukee explains that pilgrims are being asked to come to
Asissi to join in the rebuilding effort.
During the first
quakes on September 26, the two friars were
killed along with two art experts when part of the vaulted ceiling
of the 13th century basilica, containing precious frescoes, crashed
to the floor. More sections of plaster fell during later quakes,
according to news reports.
Basilica of St. Francis, which has housed the tomb of St. Francis
(left) since 1230, is a popular pilgrimage destination and tourist
attraction. St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) is the founder of
the Franciscan Order and one of the world's most popular saints.
He is admired for his love of the poor and his respect for animals
and the whole of creation.
the art treasures destroyed September 26 was the well-known fresco
of a crucifix by the early Italian master Cimabue, who also painted
the famous fresco of St. Francis pictured here. That fresco (right),
on a lower floor, was not damaged. Fortunately, the 28-fresco
series on the life of St. Francis by Giotto in the upper church
survived, but sustained at least minor damage.
Leaders of four
major Franciscan Orders issued a joint communique
expressing sorrow, appealing for solidarity and announcing plans
for a simplified observance of the Feast of St. Francis October
4. Another statement
was issued October 4 by those leaders and others who had gathered
to pray at Assisi.
of Friars Minor homepage has firsthand reports and ongoing
coverage of earthquake developments.
to American Catholic Online home page
to St. Francis of Assisi Tribute