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Restored tomb of St Francis reopens

Work completed 'in record time'

18 April, 13:59
Restored tomb of St Francis reopens

(ANSA) - Assisi - The tomb of St Francis of Assisi has reopened after a seven-week restoration, the first in its long history.

St Francis, Italy's patron saint, was buried in a rough-hewn stone sarcophagus in 1230 and lay there until the Catholic Church decided to move his body to an elaborate bronze urn, complete with the seal of the Holy See, in 1818.

This was placed in a newly enlarged crypt under the main altar of the Basilica Inferiore in the saint's home town.

The stone of the crypt and the metal of the urn have been scrubbed and burnished in record time since they were closed for the start of the restoration on February 25.

"This work of extraordinary maintenance was carried out through the night too, to keep the time of closure as short as possible," said church press officer Father Enzo Fortunato.

The technical details of the operation will be illustrated Saturday, he said, as Franciscan chapters from all over the world gather for a Mass presided over by Italy's top bishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.

A votive lamp will also be relit in front of the tomb.

It is fed by olive oil donated, on a rota basis, by Italian regions on St Francis's feast day on November 4, also a national day of peace.