Sunday, May 9, 2010

Fonte Colombo

The beautiful Reiti Valley south of Assisi is surrounded by mountains, the most famous of these being Mt Terminillo which attracts tourists to skiing and winter sports. However the valley attracts Franciscans to places that were favourites of Francis and recall for us special times in his life – Fonte Colombo, La Foresta, Poggio Bustone and Greccio.
Map of Franciscan Sanctuaries
Let us go to Fonte Colombo and see its connection with Francis.
Chapel at Fonte ColomboIn the days when Frances visited this remote place there were monks living in a monastery there and a church which dates from 13th century. The monks welcomed Francis who used only a cave and a small chapel near the church on that hill-top still covered to this very day with luxuriant vegetation. Other small shrines, the Fountain of the Doves and art works added across the centuries, make this a place of special devotion and interest to Franciscans.
The cave deep in the woods houses a tiny chapel dedicated to St Michael: this is where Francis spent long periods in fasting and prayer and it was here in 1223 that he received the final rule of the Friars Minor. For this reason Fonte Colombo is referred to as the “Franciscan Sinai”.
Chapel of the Magdalen
Chapel of the Magdalen
The small chapel in the woods called “Maddelena” (dedicated to Mary Magdalen) houses a little altar where Brother Leo celebrated Mass, with St Francis participating. In the window to the left the saint himself inscribed a Tau Cross – the biblical sign of redemption which St Francis adopted as his seal.
The main church at “Fonte Colombo”, which was expanded in 15th century, houses many treasures and art works. It is of interest to lovers of St Francis for the following reasons:
  • It preserves many Franciscan memories
  • It is the place where the Franciscan Rule was written and
  • It is here that Francis underwent the cauterising of the optical nerve to arrest the disease that was leading to complete blindness.
Pilgrims who visit this sanctuary say they feel the spirit of Francis there and a strong personal call to return to the spirit of the Gospel, just as Francis did.
Artwork at Fonte Colombo
Among the many art works in the church is this painting of Our Lady with the Child Jesus
(Antoniazzo Romano’s painting school of the 15th Century)