A beggar slumped in front of the Basilica of St Francis is ignored by tourists

In this poem the speaker describes a visit to the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Italy. The basilica is an important Christian landmark built in honour of St Francis of Assisi, a Catholic priest who decided to live a life of poverty after spending time with the poor.

In the poem, MacCaig exposes the irony that this church, constructed to celebrate a man devoted to the poor, is now a symbol of hypocrisy.

Instead of being a lasting monument to the original and noble philosophies of St Francis, it has become celebrated for its architectural merit and the priceless frescoes by the artist Giotto which are housed within it.