Eremo delle Carceri: The Hermitage of Saint Francis
The Eremo delle Carceri is a serene and beautiful hermitage halfway up the mountain behind the medieval hill-fort town of Assisi. I first visited it in 1996, when I climbed up the mountain on foot as monks like Saint Francis would have done. The monastic compound was given to St. Francis by the Benedictine monks in 1215.
A flock of white doves makes the monastery its home, flying freely all around the complex. The beauty of the place is not in its art or architecture but in its extraordinary quietude and silence, its position in a cool mountain forest, and in its heavenly view over the plains and mountains of central Italy.
Carceri refers to the monk cells which were used by the Benedictines and Franciscans for prayer, meditation, and silent reflection. Contained in the oldest part of the buildings is a tight labyrinth of grottos and stairways, and in the bottom of this maze is the
Grotto of Saint Francis.