Antico ponte al Convento di cellule - fondato da San Francesco a Cortona
"Ancient bridge to the Convent of cells - founded by San Francesco in Cortona"...
St. Francis came to Cortona to preach in 1211, and here at the foot of Mount Sant’Egidio found the solitude he was looking for. A young nobleman who went on to become the Blessed Guido, one of his first followers, offered him the place as a prayer retreat. From that moment St. Francis and his followers stayed in this isolated spot on the way to and from Assisi and other places where they were preaching. There was no hermitage in St. Francis’s time, however, and the saint slept on the bare rock. After he died in 1226, the first stone “cells” were built and a small oratory. What we see today is the result of the XVI century construction work. Le Celle stood abandoned until 1537 when it was granted by the Bishop of Cortona to the recently founded Third Order of Franciscans, known as the Capuchins. The hermitage was considerably enlarged by the Capuchins, who in 1634 erected a new chapel to take the place of a more ancient one. This new chapel was consecrated to St Anthony of Padua and reflects the Capuchins simple, unpretentious architectural and decorative style. I found Le Celle to be one of the pleasant surprises in and around Cortona. The tiny cells built into the side of the mountain with a stream descending along the structural edge creates a surreal and picturesque vision of Saint Francis’ image of God and nature. Imagine the spiritual solitude as Saint Francis would take hermitage here for days of ecstatic meditation with only a loaf of bread, listening to his beloved waterfall beneath a small window.
- Dino Carbetta
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