The Eremo delle Carceri
The Eremo delle Carceri is a fascinating place that can be found going up the Subasio mountain, starting from Assisi. It raises around a cave that was the place where St. Francisco loved to take refuge for praying.
In 1215, indeed, Benedictines donated this place to him. The ermitage, in comparison with the original architecture, has undergone an enlargement wanted by Bernardino da Siena in 1400.
You enter in a small triangular courtyard with a well in its center. The legend narrates that water would have flown thanks to a miracle of St. Francis. From the backyard's parapet you can observe a beautiful view through a Subasio's gorge that opens onto the Spoleto's plain.
The fifteenth century church raises in front of the courtyard and it preserves over the altar a fresco by a mid-1400 Umbrian-Sienese school (Crucifixion); another 1500 fresco with the Piety Mountains' emblem is located in the altar's stone; on the back wall there is a small 1300 window of French production. Through an iron gate you can enter into the extremely small Primitive Church, devoted to St. Mary of Prisons, heart of the Sanctuary and probably an original cave adjusted to chapel: on the altar there is a beautiful 16th century fresco, a Virgin with her Child and St. Francis, over a 1200 Crucifixion.
Descending a staircase and very small doors on the right you can enter into the St. Francis' cave, presently divided in two compartments: one contains the bed of stones where the Saint used to sleep; in the other one, on the right wall you can see a rock where probably St. Francis used to sit to meditate and pray. Through a small door you can go outside; on the closing wall of the cave, a blurred 14th century fresco depicts the traditional episode of preaching to birds: the legend narrates that birds were sitting listening to the Saint on an age-old holm oak that can be visible through a jumper over the moat. A wall covers a crevasse known as a "the devil's hole", where it is said that the devil is precipitated, after having been defeated by St.Francis' prayers. Nearby there is also the "dry moat" whose waters would have been asked by St. Francis not to disturb with their gurgling the friars' prayers.
Following the itinerary you can reach a bridge, at the end of which there is a bronze with St. Francis who releases the turtle doves, a Vincenzo Rosignoli's artwork. It's the start of the "St. Francis' avenue", an inspiring walk in the wood where there are different places of devotion. Among them there are the Cave of Beato Leone, reachable through a path with steps, the caves of Blessed Bernardo da Quintavalle, Blessed Egidio, Blessed Silvestro and a bit further of Blessed Andrea da Spello. Following the bridge, it's possible to climb to the chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, where the Blessed Barnaba Manassei, creator and founder of Piety Mountains, has been buried since 1477.