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Santuario di Fonte Colombo
Rieti Valley, Italy

Formerly little more than simple rustic stone and wood convents arranged as a crown in the hills above the Rieti Valley, the Santuario di Fonte Colombo is deeply linked to some special mystical moments of the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Surrounded by a beautiful forest of oak trees, Fonte Colombo lies on a ridge of Mount Rainiero, about 549 meters above sea level. Its name may have come from St. Francis himself, who, after climbing up the ridge, saw in the woods a source of crystalline water (which still exists).

There are two important moments in the life of St. Francis tied to this place.

The first, in late 1222 - early 1223, St. Francis drafted the final rule of the Friars Minor, (called "the Later Rule"), which was finally approved by Pope Honorius III on November 29th 1223. After stopping in prayer and fasting for forty days (this place is also known as "Franciscan Sinai"), St. Francis dictated to Brother Leo, in the presence of Brother Bonizo from Bologna, an expert in canon law, the rule, (which is much shorter than that so-called "non-branded" presented at the chapter of 1221).

The drafting of the rule took place in a cave known as Sacro Speco. A few paces above this cave is another, smaller cave, where Brother Leo took shelter. Nearby is the Oratory of St. Michael, which encloses the cave, and includes a small chapel.

The second moment of the life of the saint witnessed by this site, is dated at the end of the 1225, a year before his death, and is linked to an attempt to heal from the St. Francis serious eye disease that had most likely contracted in Egypt during the Fifth Crusade and that made him almost blind. All the veins from his ear to his eyebrow were cauterized with a red-hot iron. Saint Francis told the brothers who were with him that Brother Fire had saved him from feeling any pain.