FIOR (Franciscan Institute Outreach - Malta)

12. Franciscan Sanctuaries (3)

San Damiano, Rivotorto, Porziuncola

12.13 San Damiano is one of the most cherished places associated with the life of Francis and Clare of Assisi. This chapel was half ruined when Francis entered to pray in it in 1205, and there heard the voice of the byzantine Crucifix inviting him to repair Christ's Church. As an oblate he lived here for some time together with the poor priest who officiated the chapel. After renouncing his father's inheritance in front of bishop Guido of Assisi, in the winter of 1206, Francis came to this place and started repairing the church by begging stones from the Assisi populace and wearing the habit of a hermit. In this place Francis joyfully announced the beginning of the Second Order of Poor Ladies. In face, on 28 March 1211, Clare went down to the Porziuncola chapel to receive the habit of penance.

12.14. After some weeks in the Benedictine monasteries of Bastia Umbra and Sant'Angelo di Panzo, Clare and her sister Agnes came to San Damiano. It was in San Damiano that Francis was welcomed by Clare and the Poor Ladies in the spring of 1225, and it was in this place that he composed the Canticle of Creatures. The funeral cortege of Francis also stopped at San Damiano on Sunday 4 October 1226, on its way up to Assisi, so that Clare and the Sisters could see their holy father for the last time. Clare continued living in San Damiano for the rest of her life. She died in this place on 11 August 1253. The Crucifix of San Damiano was taken by the Poor Clares to the Monastery of St. Clare in Assisi, where it is still venerated.



12.15 S. Maria di Rivotorto is the name of the place where, in ancient times, a stream called Rio Tortuoso used to pass. Francis lived for some time in Rivotorto round about 1208, together with his first companions Bernardo da Quintavalle, Pietro Cattani, and others. 1 Cel 42-44 states that the place was very poor, and that the brothers learnt here their first lessons in the love of Lady Poverty. Some stories are connected with the friars' dwelling at Rivotorto, notably the courage of the brothers who refused to go out of their small huts to meet the emperor Otho IV who was on his way to Rome to be crowned by Pope Innocent III. The brothers had to leave this place and return to the Porziuncola after they were driven out by a poor peasant. Today's church commemorates this first dwelling place of the friars. Inside a reconstructed hut is a memorial to these humble beginnings.

The Porziuncola

The Porziuncola Chapel

12.16 Saint Francis loved with a special affection the Blessed Virgin Mary (2 Cel 198). He was especially fond of a small chapel in the Umbrian plain below Assisi, dedicated to St. Mary of the Angels, and popularly known as the "Porziuncola", or small portion. It was the property of the Benedictine monastery of Monte Subasio. This chapel was the place where Francis received his evangelical calling on 24 February 1208, when he heard the Gospel of the mission of the apostles. In this chapel the Order of Friars Minor was born. It was also in the Porziuncola that the Second Order of Poor Ladies of San Damiano was born on Palm Sunday 1211, when Clare embraced the evangelical form of life of Francis and the brothers. The Porziuncola was the venue for the chapters of the Order, and for the sending of the missionaries to various provinces in Italy, Europe and the Holy Land. It was also at the Porziuncola that Francis desired to end his days, and where he died in the evening of 3 October 1226.

Inside the Porziuncola

12.17 According to a strong Franciscan tradition, it was in the Porziuncola chapel that Francis received the Indulgence known as the Porziuncola Indulgence, which was confirmed by Pope Honorius III for the 2 August in 1216. The full history of the Porziuncola Indulgence is well-documented in sources such as the Diploma of Teobaldo, Bishop of Assisi (1310).

The Porziuncola's Main Painting

12.18 The importance of the Porziuncola chapel for Francis and the first brothers is well-evidenced in the Franciscan Sources. Perhaps the words of St. Bonaventure can suffice: "As he was living there by the church of our Lady, Francis prayed to her who had conceived the Word, full of grace and truth, begging her insistently and with tears to become his Advocate. Then he was granted the true spirit of the Gospel by the intercession of the Mother of Mercy and he brought it to fruition" (LegMaj III, 1).

The Porziuncola's Indulgence

© copyright FIOR-Malta
Text by Fr. Noel Muscat ofm


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