At one end of the main street of Assisi, Via San Francesco, is the Basilica of Saint Francis … so striking as the walled city is approached by road. At the other end of the street is the great edifice in pink and while stone dedicated to Saint Clare. It is necessary to wind your way up through the narrow streets of Assisi to find the Cathedral of San Rufino which pre-dates both the other major churches.
The present Romanesque structure with its beautiful rose window and impressive bell tower is the third Cathedral to stand on this site. The earliest was built in the 5th Century in honour of St Rufinus, a bishop of the third century who is said to have brought Christianity to Assisi. This church was replaced early 11th Century and by the present structure in the first half of the 12th Century.
San Rufino has a special place in the history of the Franciscan Order as it was the parish church of Assisi at the time when Francis (1182) and Clare (1193) were baptised at the font that is still used for baptisms there today. Bernard and some of the other early disciples of Francis would have been baptised there too.
In this church Francis began his preaching after he was given permission by Innocent III. Clare would certainly have heard Francis preach there as she attended Mass with her family. At Mass in San Rufino Clare accepted the olive branch from Bishop Guido on Palm Sunday, 11 March 1212 – the day she secretly left home to join Francis.