Construction works for the impressive Upper Basilica were started in 1228 by Pope Gregory IX. The Church was finished 25 years later thanks to the work of the best architects and painters of that time and became a model spreading the Gothic style all over Italy.
The façade is very simple; the upper area opens up in the middle with a large rose window surrounded by reliefs depicting symbols of the Evangelists. The entrance is an impressive Gothic doorway. The Balcony of Blessing, on the left side of the façade, was built during the 17th century facing the impressive bell tower, decorated with cornices and arches.
The original design of the basilica was very simple and followed the Franciscan rules. However, it was modified to create a more impressive and regal structure, inspired by Lombard Romanesque and Cistercian architecture. The decision to transform it was actually a strategic decision by the popes who saw the Franciscans as means for the Church to regain the trust of the poorest classes. In order to meet the needs of pilgrims, the church was built to accommodate large crowds; it was also decorated with didactic stories from the Bible. So Assisi became an important landmark for pilgrims along the way to Rome.
It is no coincidence that the Basilica is composed of two superimposed churches and used for official celebrations, hosting the Papal throne in the apse: the same layout as in Saint Chapelle in Paris, also a papal chapel.