Rieti. St. Francis Walk. – Part 1.

Photo © APT Rieti
Photo © APT Rieti

The walk of the pilgrims continues today as they did during The Middle Ages: a profound testimony of faith and an exchange between different cultures.

For this reason the Tourism Promotion Agency of Rieti has created the “Saint Francis Walk” (Cammino di San Francesco), a walk through the Valle Santa of Rieti, one of the most important places in the history of the Franciscan Order. The pilgrimage includes visits to the sanctuaries where Francis travelled to: the Sanctuary of Poggio Bustone, La Foresta, Fonte Colombo and the Greccio Sanctuary.

It is completed by a climb up Mount Terminillo with a visit to the reliquary of the Saint, a stop at the municipality of Posta and an excursion to the solitary and majestic Beech Tree of Saint Francis in the municipality of Rivondutri.

The itinerary that winds along 80 km of paths and roads immersed in a spectacular, natural setting in the perfect occasion to renew and revive the intense spirituality of the Franciscan experience. The paths can be done by foot, by bicycle, by mountain bike and by horse. It is also possible to travel by car for those who have difficulty walking or have other ailments.

A subscription and a passport, that will be stamped at each stop on the St. Francis Walk certify the pilgrimage, making it that much more special. The wayfarers on the road of Saint Francis’ role as the Patron Saint of the Environment in a land that is, and wants to remain, uncontaminated.

The Walk has the same spirit based on the Franciscan belief of purity and and poverty and brings back the values of the Rule of the Franciscan.

Order that Saint Francis wrote for his brethren and the whole world from Valle Santa.

Sacra Famiglia
Sacra Famiglia

Franciscan sanctuaries in the Santa Reatina valley

Sabina, described and immortalized by writers and poets in Roman times, was singled out by the great Italian St. Francis of Assisi who expressed his love of nature and all her marvels in his “Canticle of Creatures”.

He loved Sabina region above all others, and in particular the area between the Valley and surrounding heights.

There are four Franciscan sanctuaries in the Valle Santa of Rieti and the neighboring hills.

They are called the Sanctuary of Poggio Bustone, the Sanctuary of La Foresta, the Sanctuary of Fonte Colombo and the Sanctuary of Greccio.

The Sanctuary of Poggio Buscone
Leaving the Spoleto Valley, St. Francis went to pray to the hills overlooking Poggio Bustone, 10 miles from Rieti; the legend tells that, when St. Francis with his friends first came to the Holy Valley in 1209 to escape the ridicule and hostility of his fellow townsmen, he greeted the local people with the simple words “Good day to you good people” and the villagers, in turn, exchanged the same greeting and have continued to do so over the centuries.

In the most wild part of the mountain he found two caves where he prayed and chastised himself in penance; during his meditation he was assured of forgiveness of his sins and was told that his brethren, the new apostles would grown in number.

Sanctuary of Fonte Colombo – Photo © APT Rieti
Sanctuary of Fonte Colombo – Photo © APT Rieti

The Sanctuary of Fonte Colombo

The Sanctuary of Fonte Colombo is 3 miles from Rieti, known as the Franciscan Sinai, because it was here in 1223 that St. Francis received the final Rule of the Friars Minor from Christ.

Following this the Saint left to preach in the Orient where he contracted a very painful eye disease.

He then returned to Fonte Colombo to cure it and here performed other miracles.

It is natural, therefore, that what attracts us most to this quite peaceful hermitage it is its mystical atmosphere not its artistic value. The sanctuary stands on a hill-top still covered to this day with luxuriant vegetation and ancient Holm-oaks at in altitude of 1788 ft.

There is a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin called “ Cappella della Maddalena”, which stands in the natural cave where the Saint used to pray, the so-called “Sacro Speco”, or “Holy Cave”, and in one of the left of the altar the letter T (tau in Greek) is clearly visible: it represents the Cross that is, in effect, the Saint’s symbol.

The Sanctuary of La Foresta

The Sanctuary of La Foresta is 2,5 miles from Rieti, a shrine on the plase where St. Francis stopped to have his eyes treated while travelling to Rieti at the invitation of Cardinal Ugolino, in 1225. This was where Saint Francis came to get away from his all too faithful followers. He stayed as the guest of the Parish Priest of the little church of St. Fabiano; it was at this time that the miracle of the grapevine took place.

The huge crowds that had gathered to get a glimpse of the Saint wrecked the vineyard, but it nevertheless produced an exceptionally rich harvest of excellent quality wine. The story is depicted in a 16th century fresco, in the portico.

The itinerary continues with: Rieti. St. Francis Walk. – Part 2

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