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Saint Francis in Cortona

From Cortona to the convent of Le Celle

Saint Francis walked through Tuscany, and after stopping at Chiusi della Verna, on his way to Assisi he passed through the city of Cortona and stayed a while in this area. Nowadays we can easily walk a trail that unites the monuments that attest to the Saint’s passing.

We’ll start at the 19th-century basilica di Santa Margherita at the top of the town of Cortona, where the Saint departed the town to go to the island on nearby Lake Trasimeno to spend Lent. This rather new church is located on top of an 11th-century chapel built by Camaldolese monks and dedicated to Saint Basil. Next to the church is a bell tower dating to 1650 and a Franciscan convent surrounded by a large park.

The itinerary continues by stopping at the Romanesque church of San Niccolò and another called San Francesco, built by Brother Elia in 1247. In the latter there are relics of the saint including a tunic, cushion and a manuscript.

Exiting Cortona through the Porta Colonia in its walls, we walk towards the church of Santa Maria Nuova along a road called “dei Cappuccini”. The church is one of the most important monuments in the area; the mid 16th-century structure was designed by Cristofanello and completed by Giorgio Vasari.

The last step on the itinerary involves walking uphill to Le Celle, the 13th-century hermitage that Saint Francis himself founded, and that was built by his successor Brother Elia Coppi. Located on mount Saint Egidio, it’s an ideal place to find peace.

Currently Le Celle is inhabited by Cappucin monks who continue to live a blessed life in the manner instructed by Saint Francis when the latter came to, and left his mark on, this area.