Initially founded by the Umbrian people, Assisi became an important Roman town from the 3rd century BC onwards. In 238AD the town was converted to Christianity - which would later be of great significance to the town's most famous son. Assisi had a constant battle to remain independent of Perugia in the Middle Ages, though ultimately these attempts were futile.
By the early 13th century the town was suffering a deep decline after the Black Death decimated its population. Yet at about this time, Assisi came under Papal jurisdiction from Perugia, and a number of its buildings (in a poor state after the battles with Perugia) were rebuilt in a grander style. It began to develop rapidly at this time, and soon it expanded beyond its city walls.
It was also during this time that St Francis, a leading figure in the Christian faith, founded his Order and was the subject of adoration. Assisi experienced something of a golden age at this point. The magnificent Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli - one of Assisi's best-loved landmarks - was built in the 1570s, though by this time the city was experiencing something of a decline due to tight control from the Papacy. For a number of years Assisi was virtually forgotten, until in 1939 St Francis was declared the patron saint of Italy. Tourists and pilgrims alike flocked to the city to see where the great man had spent the early years of his life, and were delighted to find the beautiful, immaculately-preserved city that stands today.