Church of San Damiano

According to ancient Medieval documents, the small and beautiful church of San Damiano, South of the city, already existed in 1030; it had been an ancient property of Benedictine fathers. It is a place immersed in nature and would be still unknown if it hadn’t been the site of Saint Francis’ conversion in 1205.

It hosted a crucifix (today in the Basilica of Saint Clare) with Christ appearing not to be suffering, but opens his arms in a hope gesture. It spoke to Francis telling him, metaphorically, to restore his Church going broke: an order which the young man interpreted quite literally. Together with the Porziuncola, Francis rebuilt also San Damiano, but the extent of this work is unknown. We only know that the original church had a single nave and a raised chancel. 

It later became a place where Saint Clare and her Poor Clares lived; actually the holy order was originally called “the Damianites”, named after the church. Saint Clare performed miracles in this church, the most famous being the salvation from the Saracens who entered the cloister and were put to flight by Clare showing a monstrance out the window. 

Francis also stayed here during his long illness; here, in 1225, he composed his Canticle of the Sun. After the death of Clare, the Poor Clares donated the church of San Damiano to the Cathedral in exchange for the Church of San Giorgio where Saint Clare was buried. San Damiano became home to a community of friars; ownership then passed from hand to hand until it finally, in 1900, it was definitively donated to the religious community.

The church has a single nave with an apse decorated in frescos depicting San Damiano, Saint Rufinus, Jesus and the Madonna, and hosts a wood choir dating back to 14th century. On the arch above the apse is a copy of the crucifix of San Damiano the one who spoke to Saint Francis.