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Eremo delle Carceri

The Eremo delle Carceri, St. Francis’ retreat

The Eremo (hermitage) is a sanctuary located in the thick woods of Mount Subasio, about 4 km from Assisi and at an altitude of 800 m.; St. Francis and his early companions used to withdraw there in contemplation, to lead an austere life of more intense prayer.

The word Carceri may be misleading to Italian speakers because it resembles the word “prison”, but comes from the Latin carcer, meaning a secluded and solitary place. This gives rise to the term carcerare referring to the act of monks retreating to pray, like a hermit.

The Benedictine monks donated the Eremo delle Carceri to St. Francis in 1215, and it became one the most significant places of the Franciscan experience: immersed in a silent and peaceful forest of centuries-old holm oaks, St. Francis achieved his vocation, learning to pray intensely.

The Grotto of St. Francis is reached by descending through a narrow passage; according to Franciscan historiography, this is where the Saint had his first real meditation, in which he became another man. Another tale is of a companion of St. Francis, St. Rufinus, who managed to overcome temptation from the devil. It is said that the hole in the ground seen inside the cave was caused by the devil himself, who, when he was defeated, sank into the abyss.

Thanks to the inventiveness and creativity of the friars, the structure was expanded over time, especially in the early 1400s, at the behest of St. Bernardino of Siena.

 From the cloister one can then enter all the spiritual wonders of the place: the convent, a masterpiece of Franciscan simplicity and perfect harmony; the small chapel of St. Mary Magdalen, where Friar Barnabas da Terni is buried, who created and founded, in 1462, of Perugia's "Monte di Pietà", an institution to support those who, finding themselves in need, could receive an interest-free loan by leaving a pledge on deposit; and the oratory of St. Mary, where the Saint met for communal prayer with his companions.

Finally, a bridge connects the Hermitage to another part of the forest where the caves of Brother Leo and other companions of the Saint are still visible.

Throughout the year, thanks to the hospitality of the local community of friars, it is possible to immerse oneself in the silence and unspoiled nature of this evocative place, reliving and discovering the Franciscan experience.

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