San Damiano is where it all began, a dilapidated old church that in 1205 housed a 12th-century painted crucifix before which young and restless Francesco was praying one day when the Christ on it spoke to him. Francis first acted on its "rebuild my church" injunction in literal terms: He decided Jesus wanted him to shore up this decaying building, and reconstructed the church stone by stone. The church later became a favorite retreat for Francis and his followers. St. Clare founded her order of the Poor Clares here, lived out her life as its abbess, and passed away within these walls. The pretty little church is still -- in a city filled with garish and monumental memorials to the saint -- a pleasingly simple and rudimentary place, with rustic wooden choir stalls and a few simple frescoes on the walls. The monastery, with its quiet 15th-century cloister, is also usually open to visitors.