Hermitage Of The Cells
For those in search of peace and inner tranquility in the nature of Tuscany, the Hermitage of The Cells is definitely the place to be. This complex is imbued with great spirituality and is just five kilometres from the historic centre of Cortona. Famous for having long housed San Francesco, according to tradition, here the Poverello of Assisi, he wrote his spiritual testament.
To reach the Hermitage of The Cells you need to climb to an altitude of 550 meters of altitude, at the foot of the Monte Sant'egidio, and between the green vegetation of Valdichiana.
The Hermitage today
Until 1988, the Hermitage of The Cells was the place chosen to form the novitiates capuchins, considered to be the third order of the franciscan family. Currently in this complex, live a few monks who welcome pilgrims, and the people willing to spend time in a mystical place, in close contact with nature. Currently the availability for the night is 40 seats obtained in the two houses and placed at the disposal of self-organised groups.
Architecture of the Hermitage
The complex of the Hermitage of The Celle is a horse of a very narrow valley which follows the course of the stream. From the earliest expansions of brother Elias, the complex has been following the trend of the valley and the amenity of the land.
To attract the most pilgrims is the Cell of St. Francis, carved into the rock and dedicated to the utmost austerity, as it was in the style of the holy man of assisi. In the space in front of the cell is the Oratory has a rectangular shape and was once used as a dormitory for the brothers. In the upper part of the Oratory, you can visit the Chapel of the most Holy Trinity, built in 1988 during the restoration works of the complex.
The entrance to the Hermitage of The Cells is distinguished from the Oratory of San Franceschino, consists of a single nave, enriched by paintings depicting St. Francis. The other architecture that deserves a visit is the Church dedicated to Sant'antonio da Padova. In the nave stands the wall of the altar with an altarpiece made by Giovanni Marracci in 1694. On the left wall, instead, you can see a niche that houses the statue of Sant'antonio da Padova.
One of the hallmarks of the Hermitage of The Cells are the bridges made for crossing the river. The Bridge Barberini was built at the behest of the homonymous family that marked her presence here with Antonio Barberini, the brother of the future pope Urban VII.
The Bridge of the grand Duke, however, was built in 1728, precisely, by the grand Duke of Tuscany, to replace an old crossing became impassable.
The history of the Hermitage of The Cells begins well before the arrival of St. Francis. The name of the town cortona, reveals the ancient presence of small caves carved into the rock and used by shepherds and local farmers. The force of the stream, in particular, was exploited to feed the water mills.
Saint Francis came to Cortona in 1211 together with brother Sylvester. But it was thanks to the help of Guido Vagnotelli who knew this place situated on the slopes of Monte Sant'egidio. The Poverello of Assisi, he found some of the cells, including the one in which the more times he lived until a few months before his death. The Hermitage of The Celle San Francis, in 1226, wrote what is called his spiritual testament. His presence signaled the local people, including Margaret of Cortona that became the “third pearl of the franciscan charism”. After the death of Francesco, the Hermitage of The Cells was arranged and extended by friar Elia.
This place went through a period of abandonment until 1537, when it was ceded by the bishop of Cortona in the capuchin order. In the following centuries this place of prayer met in alternate developments.