Though some say time travel isn't what it used to be. In my novel-in-progress, there's a lot of debate about what it can and can't do. But one thing is certain: a jaunt back in time is unforgettable. That's what members of The Renaissance Club, my college instructor pilgrims to Italy, discover when their art historian tour guide turns out to have a golden pen containing a relic of Francis of Assisi that propels anyone who holds it into a meeting with remarkable figures from history. One of those remarkable meetings occurs in a cave outside of Assisi less than a week after the earthquakes.
Research for this book has taken me on some remarkable jaunts. The most recent was to learn more about about the earthquakes that hit Assisi in 1997, the year I've set my novel in. That year, Italy's spiritual heart received a number of shocks, spiritual, cultural, and geological. Some of the most important and sacred Western art was pulverized in two big quakes that hit the region. They say that Italy contains 60% of the world's art treasures, but Italy also sits on a network of dangerous faultlines.
Divine providence seemed to decree a blow that opened not only the frescoed ceiling vaults of the medieval church of San Francesco, where Saint Francis is buried, but also the hearts of thousands of people around the world. Over the next ten years helpers flocked to Assisi for the restoration of priceless art treasures.
News articles of the time detailed both the damage and the rescue efforts, while film footage captured the actual collapse of part of the church's ceiling roof. When that film was made, no one thought the Giotto and Cimabue frescoes would ever be replaced on the basilica ceiling. But only five years later, an unprecedented international art restoration project succeeded in replacing 50% of the frescoes on the ceiling "as they were" and the basilica was reopened.