Once again a threatening sky and a late night downpour almost put a damper on our day, but as we drove the hour and a half to the Tuscan city of La Verna, the clouds burned off and we were greeted with a beautiful autumn day.
La Verna sits about 4,000 feet above sea level; high enough to merit an extra layer of clothes, but no sign of anything like snow at this time of year.
Even during the time of St. Francis, this was a comparatively accessible place with a chapel that could fit at least a dozen men easily. Francis and Brother Leo came up here for solitude and had their own caves. Francis' actually looked much more substantial and protective then the one at Carceri.
The mountain was a gift to the Brothers by Count Orlando Cattani of Chiusi.
Even so it's a far cry from the small village that now sits on the site. Much of the additons were built under St. Bonaventure and added onto in the 1300's and 1500's. It can now comfortably hold several hundred people in rock solid structures with all the accouterments one could want. I even get better and faster web browsing service than in Brooklyn.
It was on La Verna that it is believed that St. Francis received the Stigmata, after a dream involving a six-winged seraph.
In addition to the compound, there is a trail through the woods that takes you to the top of the mountain. The path is rough at times, but barely calls for you to grab a railing, much less be prone against the mountainside or anything really scary like that. Not to say it was easy, it is a substantial hike. A group of ten of us made it in about 45 minutes, though it seemed like much less and took us considerably less time to get down. We ate lunch on a rock that had been chipped up to make roof tiles for a locked chapel at the clearing.
The view is astounding, you can see for miles and miles, though the distant clouds obscured any possibility of viewing all the way to the coast. (I don't know if that's ever a possibility.) You see about a 270 degree view, significantly more than if you just look out from the Precipice near the Chapel at La Verna that marks the site of the Stigmata.
We had a big lunch at the top then returned to the compound. Many went to the Mass at the main Basilica that culminates with a procession to the Chapel where the Stigmata took place.
This is one of Francis' tunics.