OK, so I arrived safely in Assisi and had a nice dinner with my fellow conferees (tortellini soup, pork chop, vegetable, salad, dessert, and an endless supply of red table wine, Montesanto Rosso Piceno 2007).

Not wanting to crash out the next day, I headed back to my room to sleep. There was no need to set an alarm in Assisi – they have a preprogrammed wake-up call for everyone. At 6:00am, I was awakened by church bells ringing. I opened my window to see this beautiful view of olive trees, the Umbrian valley, and the St. Francis Basilica.

After a nice breakfast at the convent, we headed up the hill for a tour of the Basilica Papale di San Francesco d’Assisi. Here I got my first taste of the connection between great art and religious worship in Italy. You see amazing frescos on the walls and ceilings everywhere, by Chimabue, Giotto, Lorenzetti, and other late medieval artists. The tour was given by an American Conventual Fransican Friar named Noel, who happened to go to seminary around the same time as the pastor of our church, Our Lady of Mercy, in Winston-Salem (Friar Bill Robinson).

As we exited the Basilica from the tour, we were able to catch a nice view of the Nativity scene that was prepared on the lawn in front of the church.

the first day of sessions. The international conference on “Religion, Spirituality, and Everyday Practice,” was co-sponsored by the Associazione Italiana di Sociologia, Sezione Sociologia della Religione and the Association for the Sociology of Religion (which invited me to attend). As is evident from the program, this was truly an international conference. The attendees came not just from Italy and the USA, but from England, Norway, Israel, Sweden, Finland, Turkey, and Canada. It was interesting to consider the place of religion and spirituality in countries that are so culturally different.

The sessions were held in the Palazzo dei Priori on the Piazza del Comune, in the Sala Conciliazione. I will probably never make a presentation in as impressive a setting. As you can see in the picture below, there are very stately chairs set up in the front of the council chambers, on a riser to add to their majesty. The fresco on the back wall was damaged in one of the earthquakes that struck Assisi in the last decade, and you can see that plans are underway to repair it, with markings on the plaster of what needs to be repainted.

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