L’eremo delle carceri, luogo caro a San Francesco.
«He lived by guarding the external senses and holding back the motions of the soul, absorbed only in God. He had nested in the cliffs, making the crevasses his home. He was really looking for solitary dwellings, to extend his state of trusting abandonment in the Saviour’s wounds. He frequently chose solitude, in order to be fully able to offer his soul to God: yet, whenever the need arose, he did not hesitate to willingly take an interest in what could serve the good of the souls».
Celano, Vita I di S. Francesco, n. 71
The Eremo delle Carceri is located in the solitude of Mount Subasio. More than 800 meters above the sea level, it is surrounded by the thick green of the holm oaks. Its name, Eremo (Hermitage), is probably linked to the close segregation from the world in which the first hermits who inhabited it lived in.
Francesco frequently retired there to contemplate and pray, alternating the most secret spiritual retreats with the long stages of his apostolic life.
Bernardino da Siena (XV Century) had a small convent built on the ancient hermitage, in every way faithful to the primitive Franciscan simplicity. From the cloister (worth noticing is the well of S. Francesco), you can enjoy a wonderful view of the mountain above and the Umbrian valley.
Near to the cloister is the refectory – partly excavated in the rocks of Mount Subasio; traces of frescoes (XVI-XVII centuries) and ancient tables can be admired there.
Above the refectory is the ancient dormitory, with tiny and typical Franciscan cells.
The church – with its small bell tower, the altar and its small choir, invites to meditate.
From the church you can easily access the ancient oratory of S. Maria (St. Mary), the smallest church in the world. This place is actually a gift to S. Francesco from the Benedictines; then you can proceed towards the Coro di S. Bemardino (Choir of St. Bemardino). Under the church, there is to the Cave of S. Francesco, who used a stone as a bed.
From here, precisely from a door called “Devil’s hole”, you can reach the beautiful forest.
The isolated Cappella di S. Maria Maddalena is located nearby the convent: the chapel, from the XVI Century, preserves the grave of Barnaba Manassei da Terni († 1477), considered the first creator of the Mount of piety.
Next to the door, there is a stream: according to a legend it was dried up by S. Francesco, who needed complete silence for his prayers. Nearby, you can admire the ancient tree on which multitudes of birds gathered to receive the blessing of the Saint.
Scattered across the forest, there are the caves of the first companions of S. Francesco (Friar Bernardo, Friar Silvestro, Friar Rufino and Friar Masseo) and those of the Blessed Andrea da Spello and Friar Leone.