The places of Basilica

Called for by Pope Gregory IX with the Bull "Recolentes" of April 29, 1228, the Basilica was meant to be a "specialis ecclesia", and has guarded the mortal remains of the seraphic saint since 1230. The Basilica was given the title of "Caput et Mater" (Head and Mother church) of the Order of the Friars Minor by the same pontiff with the Bull "Is qui Ecclesiam" of April 22, 1230; included in the decree, among other things, was the basilica's entrustment in perpetuity to the "friars of the community", the group that later became known as the Order of Friars Minor Conventual.

The title of "Caput et Mater" was recalled by Benedict XIV in his apostolic constitution "Fidelis Dominus" of March 25, 1754, by which the pope elevated the church to the dignity of patriarchal Basilica (since 2006 "Papal Basilica") and Papal Chapel ; the title was more recently recalled by Pope Paul VI in his apostolic letter "Inclita toto" of August 8, 1968.

The structure of the Basilica is composed of two superimposed churches, characterized by two construction phases, in fortunate historical-artistic succession: the first to be built, the lower church, is in the Umbrian Romanesque style of Lombard derivation; while the second, the upper church, is marked by the Gothic style of French origin, with Italian flavor, above all characterized by its colors and adornments. In fact, the internal decorative array makes both churches of the Basilica extraordinary in their uniqueness, as the offer rich and valuable pictorial cycles and precious stained glass windows. Among the frescoes in the Basilica, can be found works by Giotto, Cimabue, Lorenzetti, Simone Martini and Sermei.

In front of the atrium that precedes the entrance to the lower church of the Basilica is the former oratory of San Bernardino, built for the Franciscan Third Order (now Franciscan Secular Order, OFS) by Lombard workers in the mid-15th Century.

The two apses (or one combined apse), visible from the internal cloister known as Sixtus IV, or from the terrace overlooking the cloister, have a semicircular shape (lower church) and a polygonal shape (upper church), flanked by two cylindrical pillars on which the large Gothic windows of the upper basilica open.

In 2000, the Basilica was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List along with other Franciscan sites.