29_assisi_EremoSince the early Christian centuries Mount Subasio was the refuge of hermits, who gave birth to a ‘thebaide’ in the neighboring caves to a chapel dedicated to Santa Maria delle Carceri. This solitary place surrounded by thick turkey oaks was loved by Brother Francis, who took refuge in prayer. Above the cave of St. Francis was first built a small convent, which was enlarged to its present form by St. Bernardine of Siena in 1426. The hermitage is built on the site where St. Francis and his followers retreated in prayer at a church surrounded by caves already frequented by early Christian hermits. In the fourteenth century, the hermitage’s character was transformed by the construction of the convent, which was the current configuration with the widening wanted in the 1400 by Bernardine of Siena.
Inside the Hermitage (Eremo delle Carceri) there is a triangular courtyard that has at its center a well that overlooks the precipice. In front of the fifteenth-century church there is a fresco of the Umbrian-Sienese school of the mid 1400 (Crucifixion) above the altar; there is another fresco of the 1500s in the altar with the emblem of Monti di Pietà. The most striking part is surely the Cave of St. Francis, in its original unique environment is now divided into two compartments, one containing the stone bed where the saint slept; in the other, on the right wall you see a boulder on which probably St. Francis sat to meditate and pray.
Of great interest is the forest where there are many more places of devotion such as the caves of San Masseo and San Rufino, all set within the precious beauty of nature.