Sanctuary of La Verna – Where Francis received the Stigmata
North of Arezzo is a popular shrine in the mountains with some fabulous views of the countryside. The road from Michelangelo Caprese, where Michelangelo Buonarroti was born in 1475, winds up the wooded slopes of Mt. Sovaggio on the way to Mt. Penna, given to Francis by Count Orlando of Chuisi in 1213. Francis had a camp at la Penna in an area of strange rock formations in the forest known as La Verna, now a series of buildings from different eras that make up a sanctuary. It was here that Francis received the stigmata in 1224. A walk through the forest leading to the summit of Monte Penna gives you a wide panorama view of the Tiber and the Arno valleys.
Francis at La Verna
The first Franciscan friars liked to go to fairs and other celebrations looking for a chance at these gatherings to speak to people about God. They knew that there was a lot of ignorance about God’s true nature as a loving Father; about Jesus’ desire to share himself with us. Many people would listen to false teaching. Francis wanted to share with people his belief in God’s love.
Mount La Verna - Aerial View
One time when Francis was on a journey with his usual companion, Brother Leo, he heard that a great banquet was in progress at a nearby castle to celebrate the knighthood of a family member. Now Francis liked to go to these occasions for he saw such an assembly as a chance to speak to the crowd about God. “Let us go to the merrymaking up there for, with God’s help, we shall gather some spiritual fruit”, he said. Now among the noblemen who had come to the feast was Count Orlando. He listened with great interest to Francis, then asked if he could have a private word. Count Orlando had this to say: “In Tuscany I possess a mountain that is most favourable to things of the spirit. It is called Mount of La Verna, and is very secluded and wild and well situated for one who wishes to do penance in a remote place. I will gladly present it to you and your companions for the salvation of my soul.”
When Francis heard this generous offer he was filled with joy for it was something that he had wanted for a long time. Orlando arranged with him for some brothers to go to the mountain to see if it would be suitable for prayer and solitude. He sent fifty soldiers to accompany the brothers because they would have to pass through a dangerous forest inhabited by bandits and wild beasts.
They arrived at the mountain and soon found a place suitable for a dwelling. They built some little huts and collected stones for a small chapel. Then they took possession of the mountain in the name of St Francis. If you go to La Verna today (or “Mount Alvernia” as it is translated in English) you will find that the mountain is still wild and desolate with just a small area for the hermitage and the little chapels built over the years. The majestic mass of rock has its own beauty, the steep cliffs and grassy hollows ensure that the mountain still has its characteristic wildness to provide a desolate retreat.
St Francis' bed in a cave in the rocks,
cold and damp with huge overhanging rocks
But for Francis on his first journey all was new. As he drew near the foot of the mountain he rested under a tree and there the birds sang and perched on his head, some on his shoulders and arms. It was a good omen! To this day you can see the little Chapel of the Birds built on the site.
Arriving at the retreat place Francis chose a cave for his cell and a slab of rock for his bed. You can see that rock today. When we visit solitary places that Francis loved for prayer we remember his devotion to Jesus who called himself the rock where we can find refuge. When Francis entered into these fissures in the rock he loved to pray remembering the passion of Jesus, entering into the wound of the side of Jesus. Read more on Sanctuary
Saint Francis places: La Verna, Assisi, Gubbio, S.Maria degli Angeli. La Verna è un santuario francescano sorto nel luogo dove il Santo si ritirava spesso in preghiera e penitenza e dove ricevette le stimmate nel settembre 1224. E' un luogo di intensa spiritualità, immerso in un ambiente mistico ed affascinante anche per la natura che lo circonda fra rocce e boschi di faggio e abete. Si trova in Toscana, provincia di Arezzo, a circa 1000 mt sul monte Penna nel Parco nazionale delle foreste casentinesi, a pochi km da Pieve Santo Stefano e da Caprese Michelangelo. Gubbio è una bella cittadina umbra, molto interessante con un nucleo medievale ben conservato. E' famosa per la Festa(corsa) dei Ceri che si svolge ogni anno nel mese di maggio in onore di sant'Ubaldo patrono della città. Anche Gubbio è molto legata a San Francesco: qui il Santo si rifugiò per qualche mese all'inizio della vocazione dopo essersi allontanato da casa e spogliato degli abiti comuni, qui ritornava spesso, qui avvennero alcuni miracoli, qui -da leggenda- il famoso episodio dell'incontro col lupo, reso mansueto dopo averlo rimproverato.
Santa Maria degli Angeli è considerata il centro del francescanesimo. All'interno della Basilica si trova la "porziuncola", una cappella a forma di chiesetta rimasta per lungo tempo in stato di abbandono, che il Santo restaurò e che segnò l'inizio della sua vocazione. Qui san Francesco viveva abitualmente, qui fondò l'ordine dei Frati Minori e qui morì nell'ottobre 1226.
Assisi è la città dove il Santo nacque nel 1182(?) e dove trascorse la sua giovinezza fino alla vocazione. All'eremo delle carceri si ritirava spesso per pregare e meditare. Ora il suo corpo riposa nella cripta della Basilica inferiore. Costruita in pietra viva, spesso con toni rosati, la città sorge a ventaglio sulle prime pendici del monte Subasio; tutta raccolta entro le mura antiche, ha conservato magnificamente il suo aspetto medievale con le caratteristiche viuzze dai balconi fioriti.