The “Seven Churches of Assisi” itinerary ends at the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli, though it is ideal to complete the cycle by following the “mattonata” to the Basilica of Saint Francis, ascending to Assisi along the processional route used by the faithful for centuries, and by the participants of the interfaith conference convocated by Benedict XVI on 27 October, 2012. The route, probably of Roman origin, was already in use at the time of Francis; after his death, its use for religious processions became more common. In the 1400s it was paved with bricks down the center for processions (unearthed in stretches in 1990), from where the name ”Mattonata” derives. In the 1600s, two rows of elms were planted along the length to provide the numerous pilgrims with shade in the summer, and two lateral ditches were dug to drain rainwater.
Between the late 1800s and the mid 1900s, the road was asphalted, the ditches covered and made into sidewalks, and the hamlet of Santa Maria degli Angeli grew into a bustling town, with a train station and numerous hotels. A series of road works along the city walls of Assisi also contributed to the loss of the “Mattonata”.
The Jubilee of 2000 was an occasion to “restore” the route: through a (hotly debated) international fundraising project, the route was repaved with bricks and the wide sidewalk lined with trees and benches.
Source: “La via di Francesco” – Edizioni San Paolo S.r.l.