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Il Santuario della Verna, Italy

“LA VERNA”, in Latin, “Alverna” and geographically known as “Monte Penna”, is an isolated mountain of 1,283 m situated in the centre of the Tuscan Apennines, rising above the valley of the Casentino, central Italy. LA VERNA is known especially for its association with Saint Francis of Assisi, who received the Stigmata here, and for the Santuario della Verna, which grew in response to this gift from our Lord. The two videos below provide a visual introduction to the Sanctuary. To access the extensive and informative Santuario della Verna website, CLICK HERE. To access the Santuario della Verna Facebook page, CLICK HERE.

ANCIENT ENTRANCE: For centuries, those who wished to see La Verna and its sacred places climbed a path beginning in La Beccia. Today, one can access this path from Chiusi della Verna as well. Below the ancient entrance to the Sanctuary is the Chapel of the Birds, built in 1602. Here once stood a large oak tree in whose branches, according to the "Fioretti, First Consideration", birds of the forest came together to sing their welcome to Francis when he first came up to visit La Verna.

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In 1218, the LITTLE CHURCH of SANTA MARIA DEGLI ANGELI was built for St. Francis by Count Orlando. Francis himself wanted this Chapel to be built, and after Our Lady appeared to him in a vision, he himself indicated its site and its measurements. These are identical with those of the  Porziuncola near Assisi. Francis wanted the first stone structure on La Verna to be dedicated to the Mother of his Order.

After 1250, the small church was lengthened to accommodate the growing number of people who were making a pilgrimage to La Verna. In 1260 the church was consecrated in the presence of St. Bonaventure and several bishops. St. Bonaventure contributed a bell that may be seen today in the small campanile (bell tower) on the left side of the building. Originally it hung from a beech-tree alongside the chapel.

A stone plaque at the foot of the presbytery step near the altar notes that here is buried, among others Count Orlando.

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Construction of La Verna's CHIESA MAGGIORE, (basilica) was begun in 1348, but not finished until 1509 due to lack of funding. Much of the material used in the construction of the church and campanile came from the remains of the Chiusi castle, once owned by Count Orlando but abandoned at the end of the 15th century. It was built in the shape of a Latin cross with reduced lateral arms and contains important monuments and masterpieces of art. Of particular interest to Franciscans is the Chapel of the Relics, which includes the abit (habit) St. Francis wore when he received the Stigmata. The church was formally recognized as a minor basilica in 1921. 

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A few years after SANTA MARIA DEGLI ANGELI was consecrated in 1260, the CHAPEL OF THE STIGMATA was built. On the floor stands a memorial tablet indicating the exact place where St. Francis received the Stigmata. On the end wall is a monumental altar piece by Andrea della Robbia that depicts Christ crucified surrounded by Angels and, at his feet, the Holy Mary, St. John, St. Francis and suffering St. Jerome.


 

Twice daily, the friars living on La Verna go in solemn procession along the CORRIDOR OF THE STIGMATA from the CHIESA MAGGIORE to the CHAPEL OF THE STIGMATA. According to legend, one winter night the friars were forced to give up the procession because of a blizzard. In the morning they found in the snow the tracks of animals that had made the procession in their place. The corridor was built between 1578 and 1582. The leaded glass sides give protection even in the worst snows of winter.

 

MOUNT PENNA: A path from the Santuario leads through a beautiful forested area to the summit of Mt. Penna. The hike takes about 30 to 40 minutes. There are a number of other hikes in the vicinity of the Santuario.

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Crowning a rocky spur above the town of Chiusi della Verna are the evocative ruins of the COUNT ORLANDO CATTANI'S CASTLE , who gave La Verna to St. Francis of Assisi in the spring of 1213. Nearby is the ancient church of SAN MICHELE ARCANGELO, erected by the Countess Giovanna Tarlati in 1385. As noted above, much of the material used in the construction of the Chiesa Maggiore and Campanile came from the remains of the Chiusi castle.

Photos of Count Orlando's castle in Chiusi della Verna & San Michele Arcangelo

In La Verna, there are many places that evoke MEDITATION & PRAYER. Here are glimpses of four of them. You may have to turn up the audio to hear the singing coming from Chiesa Maggiore, first heard in the piazzale and then inside Santa Maria deli Angeli.