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mail: Bill Thayer 
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[image ALT: An engraving of a cluster of rather primitive small medieval stone buildings hanging on to the side of a forested hill.]
	The Hermitage of S. Francesco delle Carcere [sic] stands in a cleft filled with luxuriant wood in the midst of the scorched and arid limestone rocks of Monte Subasio. A low gateway, with a fresco of the Virgin and Child between S. Francis and S. Chiara, is the entrance to a wood which is filled with wild flowers, and where nightingales sing abundantly. A knot of brown conventual buildings occupies the most picturesque position in the gorge, and encloses the cell whither S. Francis retreated as a young man to combat with his passions in perpetual solitude and penance. His stone bed is shown, and his wooden pillow, a fountain which burst forth in answer to his prayers, and the hollow by which the tormenting Devil escaped. In the dormitory is a large cross given by S. Bernardino. In the cell of S. Francis, now a chapel, is a miraculous crucifix which is said to have conversed with the nun Diomira 'di gran bonta e perfezione', and to have told her that it so loved two Franciscans (Fra Cristoforo of Perugia and another) that the whole world might be saved by their prayers. Not only this, but when Fra Silvestro dello Spedalicchio, overwhelmed by fatigue, fell asleep before it, it woke him with a cuff — 'un soavissimo schiaffo' — bidding him go and sleep in a more suitable place, i.e. his dormitory! Five other penitential cells remain in the wood, through the midst of which runs a stream which, when it threatened to destroy its hermitage, was stopped by the prayers of S. Francis. It is said that it now rages violently when any public calamity is at hand. In this wood, says one of his biographers, while S. Francis was singing the praises of God in French — to him the language of song — he was attacked by robbers, who, disappointed by his absolute poverty, for he possessed nothing but a hair shirt with a peasant's tunic over it, threw him into a ditch filled with snow.


Thayer's Note:

Hare's account is, as might be expected, a better one than mine. Mind you, the wooden pillow is gone now, the tunic is in Assisi, and I suspect that some of the lively anecdotes can be attributed to the spiel of a cicerone, whereas I visited the Eremo by myself in silence, as the modern visitor is very much encouraged to do. But I heard no nightingales, nor did I cast Franciscan friars in the rôle of Zerlina (Batti, batti, o bel Masetto). . .


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Page updated: 25 Jun 04