Benvenuti al Convento di celle Fondato da San Francesco Cortona
"Welcome to the Convent of cells Founded by San Francesco Cortona"...
In the year 1211, St. Francis along with a few of his followers built the first nine cells of the now Franciscan Hermitage, and it has taken the name of Le Celle ever since. Originally, only a few small hermit’s cottages and peasant dwellings existed, including a small chapel that had been built during the Lombard invasions and dedicated to the Archangel Michael. This is believed to be the place where, in May 1226, four months before his death, St. Francis dictated his Will. Following the death of Saint Francis that same year, Brother Elias of Cortona who was among the first to join St. Francis of Assisi in his newly founded Order of Friars Minor, withdrew permanently to the Le Celle Hermitage. In 1239, Elias carried out a number of improvements and restoration works which ensured the hermitage became a permanent Franciscan property. Brother Elias is in fact considered responsible for having broken up the stone of the caves and created a chapel that was formerly used as a dormitory by the monks, and the small cell where St. Francis lived. The walls built under leadership of Brother Elias are rough but solid; the hermitage contains eight small rooms large enough for a bed, table and a chair – the essential furnishings prescribed by St. Francis himself for a Franciscan hermitage, where the prime importance was to lead a life given over to contemplation. Currently, the hermitage is inhabited by seven friars who continue to practice the teachings of St. Francis. 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.
- Dino Carbetta
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