I traveled to the Tuscany region of Italy last month for the Serious Writers Italy Tour, a combination writing retreat and sightseeing trip.
One unexpected highlight was our visit to a 13th-century Franciscan convent, located near the medieval town of Cortona in the province of Arezzo. The convent, also known as Convento delle Celle or Eremo Le Celle, is nestled in the side of a mountain and surrounded by woods.
The monastery is important because Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan order, dwelt in a small cell there for a time.
Francis of Assisi was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant and landowner. He was a rebellious young man who was captured in a battle and imprisoned for almost a year while his father negotiated his ransom.
During that time, he claimed to receive visions from God. Eventually, various circumstances led him to live as the poor. He ministered to lepers, gained followers, and is venerated for his love of animals.
He was only forty-four when he died on October 3, 1226. Pope Gregory IX canonized him about two years later on July 16, 1228. He is known as the patron saint of animals.
When Francis stayed at the Convent de Le Celle, he lived in the small room shown below.
A few years after Francis’s death, a sanctuary, refectory and five monk cells were added to the original structure. In 1537, the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin dedicated the monastery to St. Michael Archangel. Almost a hundred years later, another dedication took place—this time to St. Antony of Padua.
Napoleon expelled the monks in the early 1800s but they returned before the end of the century.
Today, the site is managed as a rustic retreat by the Capuchin Order.
As you can see by the photos I’ve included in this post, the monastery is, indeed, a tranquil and restful place.
Photos ~ © Johnnie Alexander 2023