Pax et Bonum

Dawn In Assisi


St Francis - pax et bonum (c) A. Harrison
St Francis – pax et bonum (c) A. Harrison

I woke to a watery sun creeping through the window. Yesterday, I’d looked over terracotta rooftops and onto an Umbrian countryside so classic as to be breathtaking. Now Assisi lay hidden by mist. Spires and steeples appeared and disappeared at the whim of a cold breeze, and every noise came as if from far away. Water dripped from the roof and onto the windowsill beside my hand.

Through the mist came the muffled peal of a bell calling the faithful to Mass. As the world slept I made my way through the dimly lit corridors of the hotel. Outside, a winter wind fingered my clothes. The few people passed at that early hour seemed more shadow than reality as I made hurried to the Papal Basilica of St Francis.

St Francis hearing the call of God (c) A. Harrison
St Francis hearing the call of God (c) A. Harrison

Although the bells kept calling through the mist, the doors to the Upper Basilica were locked. The only light in The Lower Basilica came from candles, and the sound of chanting swirled through an air heavy with incense. Priests filled the stalls behind the main altar as a few tardy nuns scuttled to their seats.

ruins of Assisi (c) A.Harrison
ruins of Assisi (c) A.Harrison

The words of the Italian mass tumbled about me. Surrounded by Giotto’s frescoes, I sat cocooned in abubble of tranquillity, far removed from the real world. When seen from the valley below, Assisi floats even above the hilltops. It is a place of steep streets and quiet corners, of bustling squares and cafes abutting onto forgotten ruins. Yet whether walking the cobbled lanes or sitting in an empty church, the words of St Francis are ever tangible: pax et bonum, peace and goodwill.


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