| The Tomb of St.
Francis of Assisi
The lower church at Assisi - site of the tomb of St. Francis
Tomb of St. Francis of Assisi
The remains of St. Francis were
solemnly transported to the new church on 25 May 1230. Pope Innocent IV consecrated the
basilica on 25 May 1253. Pope Benedict XIV declared the church a Patriarchal Basilica and
Papal Chapel on 25 March 1754 with the Constitution "Fidelis Dominus". Pius VII,
on 12 September 1818, gave permission to the Minister General of the Friars Minor
Conventuals to proceed with the excavations underneath the main altar of the lower
basilica in order to find the tomb of St. Francis, which had been conceiled by Brother
Elias and then by Pope Eugene IV in 1476.
The tomb came to light on 8 December 1818, and
on 12 December the remains of St. Francis were exhumed. In order to facilitate the visits
of the growing number of pilgrims to the tomb, a new neo-romanic crypt was opened
underneath the lower basilica. On 18 June 1939 Pope Pius XII declared St. Francis patron
saint of Italy. A votive lamp with oil donated by the various regions of the Italian
peninsula burns on the tomb. On 18 January 1978 Pope Paul VI authorised the Minister
General of the Friars Minor Conventuals to proceed with the reopening of the tomb and
scientific study of the remains of St. Francis. This took place between 24 January and 4
The Finding of the Tomb in 1818
With the specific orders of Popes Eugene
IV (1442) and Sixtus IV (1476), the tomb containing the sarcophagus
with the bodily relics of the Saint were sealed in such a way that
they could not be disturbed or interfered with. This was a time of
fierce fighting between the noble families of Assisi and Perugia,
thus the tomb needed to be completely inaccessible in case of theft.
The tomb was thus kept in this state of solitude, definitively
closed until December 1818, when Pope Pius VII allowed the tomb to
be freed from the solid rock it was incased in. This also allowed
the mortal remains of the saint to be uncovered and properly
investigated by the Umbrian bishops, medical experts and
archeologists from Rome and nearby towns.
The stone shown here was used as a pillow for the body of the saint,
as he lay in the sepulchre since 1230.
The eleven silver coins were also found in the sarcophagus. Pressed
at Lucca towards the end of the twelfth century, they came from the
Mint of Otto IV. These coins are identical to those found at the
same time in the sepulchre of St. Mark in Venice, which prove the
times of birth, death and burial of Francis, as well as
authenticating his remains in this glorious sepulchre.
At the base of the Statue-Reliquary of Saint Francis we find other
small relics, which are arranged around a small flask containing
ashes of the body of the saint, removed during the uncovering of
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