Saint Francis' Convent: Cortona

 
Convento di Frati - Cortona
Convento di Frati - Cortona
Il Convento Frati Cappuccini is a Franciscan monastery set on the slopes of Monte Sant Egidio, over the Vignone River just outside Cortona, Tuscany and is very much worth a visit if you are in this area. Not only is the building historically important but it is delightfully cool and beautiful to walk around on a hot day. Saint Francis of Assisi had the monastery built c 1211 and it was the first of many houses he founded. The buildings are immaculate. The grounds are well kept and there are delightful gardens and paths to wander along and enjoy the tranquillity of the surroundings. The river upon which the monastery was founded carves it’s way spectacularly through the rock, allowing for a beautiful bridge to cross the chasm to the sanctuary. You can still see the tiny cell belonging to St. Francis. A mere 1.8 by 2.5 metres and only 1.9 meters high, the cell has a tiny window, the bed on which St Francis reputedly slept and his desk and painting of the Madonna and Child in front of which he used to pray. The Hermitage certainly has an atmosphere which invokes spirituality and peace yet it is vibrant with religious life. There are ‘prayer schools’ and retreats for young people in summer so that they learn the Franciscan way of life. Francis was one of several children of a wealthy cloth merchant from Assisi and a noble Frenchwoman from Provence. In his early life Francis was a typical rich youth, indulging in drinking, womanising and fighting. He was a favourite amongst the wealthy and well connected families in southern Tuscany because of his love of life, musical ability and prowess on the hunting field. When he was around twenty years old Francis joined the local army (every large township had men at arms and generally made a point of fighting regularly with their neighbours). The Assisians rode out to battle with the Perugians and lost the fight. Francis was taken prisoner and held for a year before being ransomed. During that time it is said that his health failed and his thoughts turned to ideas of mortality and the meaning of life. After his release it is said that he was a much more sober character. He had dreams in which a voice told him how to behave and finally he turned entirely to what would ultimately become the Franciscan lifestyle of poverty and simplicity.   Feastday: October 4 Patron of Animals, Merchants & Ecology b.1181 d.1226   Il Convento Frati Cappuccini Strada dei Cappuccini, 1, 52044 Cortona, Italy Sarah Fraser