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The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi

Visit San Francisco's Own Pilgrimage Site


The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi

National Shrine of Saint Francis in San Francisco

Photo by Ocean Malandra
San Francisco's namesake was the most influential Catholic mystic and reformer of the middle ages and it almost seems preordained that the city named after a man of peace that cared for the poor has become the nation's most progressive and tolerant metropolis. Here, at the National Shrine to Saint Francis, visitors can attend a daily Franciscan mass, visit the Porziuncola Nuova - a scaled replica of the Saints actual church in Assisi, Italy, shop for spiritual souvenirs in the basement gift shop and even get pardoned for their sins.

Visiting the National Shrine of Saint Francis

The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi is located in the heart of the North Beach area and is easy to add to any walking tour of the city.
  • Address: 610 Vallejo Street, San Francisco
  • Hours: Church - 10am to 5pm daily, Porziuncola Nuova and Giftshop - Tuesday through Sunday 1am to 6pm.
  • Admission: Free of charge
  • Contact: (415) 986-4557 www.shrinesf.org

The Saint Francis of Assisi Church

The oldest church in San Francisco next to the original Franciscan settlement of Mission Dolores, this Norman Gothic Church was built in 1859 to serve the city's ballooning population after the Gold Rush. The church itself is a California State Historic Landmark and holds several historic and artistic treasures worth checking out:
  • Murals: Murals depicting the miracle filled life of Saint Francis surround the main altar and the front of the church. These were painted by renown Italian fin-de-siècle painter and illustrator Luigi Brusatori.

  • Statues of the Saints: The Church interior is lined with life-sized statues of many prominent Catholic saints including Saint Francis himself and Saint Clare, his female partner, founder of her own order and the first woman to write a book of rules for monastic life - the Rule of Life.

  • The Pipe Organ: The Saint Francis of Assisi Church contains a 1926 Schoenstein Organ Company of San Francisco pipe organ that is used regularly as part of mass.
The Church also gives a traditional Franciscan Mass that attracts a diverse group of locals and visitors every Sunday at 10am and Monday through Saturday at 12:15pm.

The Porziuncola Nuova

This 3/4 scale exact replica of the basilica in Assisi that Saint Francis restored and founded his order in is located in its own structure right next to the church. Before Saint Francis rebuilt the original church it was an ancient temple to Our Lady of the Angels, an early name for the holy mother.

This church was to play a prominent part in the fascinating story of Saint Francis and was the site of one of his major miracles, known as the "Great Pardon" or the "Porziuncola Indulgence". According to several sources, one night Saint Francis was praying to Jesus and Mary to forgive the sins of mankind when they appeared before him in a dazzling light and with a multitude of angels.

Jesus asked Saint Francis what he wanted for the salvation of others. Saint Francis replied that he would like complete forgiveness for all those who asked for it at the church. Jesus not only granted Saint Francis his wish but told him to go to the Pope and tell him that he had been authorized by God to pardon sinners at not only the Porziuncola but at all Franciscan churches.

In this way Saint Francis not only reformed the corrupt Catholic church, which had been charging exorbitant fees for "Indulgances" - official pardons by the church - but he set a precedent in terms of arguing for universal salvation that continues within the order to this day. In the words of Saint Francis, which are inscribed in Latin outside the Porziuncola Nuova: "O my Brothers and Sisters, I Want You All to Go to Paradise".

What this means is that anyone can ask for forgiveness at the National Shrine of Saint Francis, and it will be granted if they truthfully confess their sins. This could be very usefull after a night out in the North Beach Neighborhood.

The National Shrine of Saint Francis Gift Shop

The basement bookstore cafe offers not only a large selection of books on Saint Francis, Saint Clare and other Franciscan history but many spiritual souvenirs including the Tau cross, which was the icon worn by Saint Francis himself. The gift shop is also the best place in the city of San Francisco to pick up replicated frescos from Italy and scrolls in different languages containing several saying of the saint, including the Prayer of Saint Francis:

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace;
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.

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