Monday, January 13, 2014

Assisi 20.12.13: Mystic Fog and Zebras Running Through Manger Scenes

Assisi Evening, 20 December 2013

In Assisi now. We arrived about 3 P.M. and took a taxi up the hill to Casa Papa Giovanni. Absolutely none of the malarkey here about shared rooms, the finger-wagging about two men and matrimony. The nice lay staff member who greeted us and showed us to our room asked if we wanted one room or two, and when we told her one, she showed us to a room with two single beds.

Drizzling since our arrival, which makes the the countryside mystical, the shroud of fine rain and mist overhanging everything, muting the faint grays, browns, greens, and blues of winter. As we came out of the shrine of Clare, the sun was setting beneath the lowering dark clouds, forming a red bar atop the line of hills to the west, a beautiful sight.

Santa Maria sopra Minerva, 20 Dec. 2013
Since we had no lunch, after our arrival, we walked down the hill to the Piazza di Commune and had a café macchiato and shared pastry standing at a coffee bar, and then visited the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, dark and baroque with one of those Marys crowned with stars (Lourdes?) you see so often in European Catholic churches of a certain ilk, and which was, indeed, replicated in the cathedral up the hill.

A people-sized church, Steve said of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, unlike the cathedral, which is larger without being grand, and where there was an interesting African-themed presepio in a little sunken chapel-like area near the door to the church, with an iron fence so that one could look but not approach. Zebras running in a line across the pasture in which Joseph and Mary linger under a shed . . .  .

On to Clare's basilica, where we sat before the San Damiano cross and then went to the crypt to see the--let's be truthful--mummy of Clare. I found the exhibit of her cilice, hair shirt, tattered this and that, frankly appalling. How, I wonder, has the message of Christianity come to be about dead bodies and hair shirts?

Piazza Santa Chiara, 20 Dec. 2013
After that, a shot of grappa against the cold and damp as we stood at a coffee-shop bar just up the hill from the basilica, where we talked in French with the Moroccan owner about the bad economy of Italy and the German work ethic, and then back up the hill in the growing dark for supper at Papa Giovanni.

As we walk in, we step into the bookstore attached to the place, and a rap song is playing, perhaps on a radio station broadcast into the bookstore. We hear, "If I was gay, I'd think hip-hop hates me." Then the rapper, who sounds like a black male, goes on about how people who have experienced oppression should not oppress others, and how being gay is being treated always as lesser than. And then he says that a lesson he learned in church is that sermons used to hurl hate are not anointed words.
Assisi Sunrise, 21 Dec. 2013

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