Umbria is a region strongly associated with religion and spirituality. Along with christianity, this region gathered great saints, from St Francis to St Clare, St Valentine, St Scholastica and St Rita from Cascia. Umbria thus became the cradle for important religious movements that contributed to the building of amazing spiritual masterpieces.
Todi is home to the magnificent Duomo dell’Annunziata, re-built after the 1246 earthquake. Its counter-façade displays a beautiful Last Judgement by Ferraù from Faenza, dating to the 16th century. 6 km from Todi rises the Sanctuary of Merciful Love, which Pope John Paul II made a Basilica in 1982; on the 18th of August 1951, the Blessed Maria Josefa Alhama established here. This sanctuary was designed in 1965 by an architect from Madrid, Giulio Lafuente, who chose water as a recurring symbol of this holy place; here, sick people can in fact plunge themselves in water. Another interesting church to visit in Todi is the Temple of Santa Maria della Consolazione, a splendid example of Umbrian renaissance architecture built between 1508 and 1607.
In Gubbio you will find the Church of St Francis, built by architect Fra’ Bevignate on the ancient house of the Spadalonga family, who welcomed St Francis when he left his father’s house in Assisi. The Basilica of St Ubaldo was built in the 12th century and then later renovated in the 16th century. Both the famous ceri of Gubbio and the body of St Ubaldo, saint patron of the town, are kept here in this church.
One cannot say to have visited Umbria without a stop in Assisi, hometown of St Francis and St Clare. The Basilica of St Clare housed the crucifix that talked to St Francis in 1205, which was originally kept in St Damian’s church, where Francis hid from his father. Here, St Francis wrote the first draft of his Canticle of the Sun, inside a small dwelling made of canes, and St Claire established here in 1212 when she became a nun – this is where she founded her Order of the Poor Clares. On the 7th of July 1228, after the death of St Francis, Pope Gregory IX put the first stone for the construction of the Basilica of St Francis – a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2000. Just next to the Basilica, you will find St Francis’ Wood, a FAI (Italian National Trust) site extending for 64 acres with over 800 years of history. Also close to the Basilica, the church of St Peter dominates a beautiful square. With first documentary evidence dating back to the 10th century, a profound restoration in 1255 changed the look of this church as it appears today. Many other Franciscan sites can be found outside Assisi’s walls and in its surroundings; for example, the Eremo delle Carceri is an ancient hermitage chapel where St Francis and his companions used to retreat and pray, and here the saint wrote its “Rule for Hermitages”. In Santa Maria degli Angeli you will find the Porziuncola, a small chapel where St Francis took shelter after abandoning all his terrestrial belongings and where he died in 1226.
Norcia is the home town of both Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica. The Basilica of St Benedict was erected between 1290 and 1338 over the existing crypt; it is entitled to St Benedict, saint patron of Europe and founder of western monasticism, therefore it is one of the most important spiritual places in Umbria.
The perfect closing of a spiritual tour of Umbria is in Cascia, with a visit to the Sanctuary of Saint Rita. This building was erected in the 20th century to hold the remains of the beloved saint.