CATHEDRAL OF SAN RUFINO, Cathedral Of San Rufino

Audio File length: 2.41
English / USA Language: English / USA

Hi, my name’s Jill, and I’m your personal guide. Along with MyWoWo, I’d like to welcome you to one of the Wonders of the World: the Cathedral of San Rufino.

The cathedral was built around 1140 to contain the relics of Saint Rufinus, a bishop of Assisi who lived 1000 years before Saint Francis. The facade is one of the masterworks of Umbrian Romanesque architecture, perfectly proportioned in the division between the horizontal bands and the vertical elements, given a lighter touch on the front thanks to three beautiful rose windows. The central window is divided into twelve parts – like the months of the year and the number of apostles – and seems to be supported by three figures standing on dragons, alluding to how strenuous human life is without faith. Man can find salvation in the church, which he enters through the door; on both sides we can see lions attacking their victims, perhaps meant to represent evildoers seeking to make their way in. Remember that all medieval sculptures are rich in deliberately mysterious meanings. Don’t forget to take a close look at the impressive Romanesque bell tower, with the different levels marked by cornices and small arches.

If you’re thinking the inside is much less austere than the facade, you’re right: it is bright, plastered and well-lit, because it was completely renovated in the 16th century in Renaissance style.

The baptismal font is of significant historical value: among those baptized here were Saint Francis, Saint Clare and possibly Emperor Frederick II.

You may know that in the Middle Ages, relics or the revered remains saints, were a major attraction of churches capable of drawing crowds of pilgrims. What you may not know is that they were sometimes stolen. It’s said that the Bishop of Assisi wanted to move the body of Saint Rufinus to another church, but that the people opposed to this. This marked the beginning of a sort of tug-of-war over the coffin containing the saint’s body, perhaps the one you can still see in the crypt, which saw seven citizens of Assisi defeating the seventy men of the bishop. This miracle persuaded the bishop to desist, and the relics remained in this church.


Let me leave you with an interesting fact: during the last week in August, you can attend the Palio di San Rufino, a crossbow competition between the city’s neighborhoods. The Palio is preceded by exhibitions, theater performances and banquets in the square, so if you’re a fan of popular festivals, don’t miss this one!


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