Although it consists of a modest church and adjoining convent, San Damiano has great historic significance. Visit the site where it is said, in 1205, St. Francis was commanded by God to give up a life of luxury and excess to serve the Church and where St. Clare founded the Order of Poor Ladies in 1212. Escape from the crowds inside the city walls when you visit this peaceful and charming location.
Approach the site from the north by following an atmospheric trail lined with olive trees, from where you can get a first glimpse of the façade of the convent and church. Although not nearly as lavish as many of the Franciscan structures within the walls of Assisi, the architectural restraint on display at San Damiano is more in keeping with the life of poverty and humility led by St. Francis.
Appreciate the peaceful atmosphere of the church’s interior and take a seat to spend a few minutes in prayer or meditation. The walls around the church’s single nave are painted with 14th-century frescoes while the apse of the choir is decorated with a 13th-century fresco of Madonna and Child between Saints Rufinus and Damianus. The painted crucifix in the apse is a copy of the icon that spoke to St. Francis the original now hangs in the Basilica of Santa Chiara.
Explore the monastery buildings nearby, including the attractive 15th-century cloister, the refectory and the old dormitory, where St. Clare died in 1253. The modest facilities of the monastery give you an idea of the frugal life of its inhabitants during medieval times. Wander through the surrounding gardens to find a number of bronze statues, including one of St. Francis meditating.
There is no fee to enter the monastery and church at San Damiano, which are open daily. Times vary according to season and it is usually closed during lunch hours. The site is 0.9 miles (1.5 kilometers) from the city walls, approximately a 15-minute walk from the city gate at the east side of the Basilica of Santa Chiara. Taxis are readily available from the center of Assisi.