Today in Catholic History – Saint Francis of Assisi buried in tomb of his basilica

On 25 May 1230, Brother Elias and some citizens of Assisi secretly moved the body of Saint Francis, which had been placed in the Basilica of Saint George in Assisi after the death of the saint, into the tomb which had been prepared for it in the recently completed Basilica of Saint Francis.

Elias feared that citizens from nearby Perugia might seek to steal the body and bury it in their own city. It was believed that the city and peoples of a city would gain blessings if the relics of a saint were buried there. Other examples of this belief in history can be seen in the presence of the relics of Saint Mark in Venice and Saint Nicholas in Bari.

The body of Francis was buried in a tomb deep underground, the tomb was covered with stone and over the stone was placed the high altar in order to prevent theft of his relics. Francis’ tomb was inaccessible until 1818 when, after a fifty two day search, the body of the saint was rediscovered.

The transfer of the body of Francis caused a controversy with Pope Gregory IX as there was to be a public transfer of the relics a few days later. The pope excommunicated the citizens of Assisi for moving the relics without episcopal authority and placed an interdict on the Basilica of Saint Francis – though these punishments were later rescinded.


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