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St. Francis's Hermitage near Assisi

[image ALT: A cluster of rather primitive small medieval stone buildings hanging on to the side of a forested hill.]

This complex of chapels and buildings grew up over the Saint's cave.

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The core of the hermitage complex, of course, is the actual rock cave where Francis came to be alone and pray. Like everything else in his life, it is now enshrined in a sort of reliquary of chapels and frescoes; but he was canonized less than 2 years after he died: the presence of a live human being can still therefore be felt (in essence, his memory was freeze-dried). [ 3 photos ]

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It is to the Franciscan concern for the poor that we owe today's pawnbroker. While loans on pledges, an obvious concept, were widespread in Antiquity, a formalized system did not reappear until 1462. The man who set up the first modern mons pietatis is buried here, in the Cappella della Maddalena. [ 4 photos ]

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One of the most famous episodes in the life of St. Francis was his preaching to a flock of birds; actually, getting them to be quiet in church is nearer the truth. A very old tree at the Eremo is pointed out as being the one where those 13th‑century sparrows were twittering. My page takes a look at this and a couple of other old trees as well. [ 2 photos ]

Another Traveler

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Augustus Hare (1834‑1903) was a student of the classics who, as many did in those days, wrote up his travels in Italy; and pray tell, what else do many Web-authors do? His entries are highly idiosyncratic, sometimes with an undertow of priggishness and snobbery, and range from kinda dry to observant to mildly amusing. His account of a visit to the Eremo is among the latter.
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Site updated: 29 May 00