Speco di San Francesco


Useful Information

Location: Near Sant Urbano. From Terni follow SP70 and SP21, between Le Ville and Sant Urbano turn left. Signposted. (42° 27′ 22.64″ N, 12° 35′ 47.15″ E)
Open: All year daily 8:30-19:30.
[2020]
Fee: free, donations welcome.
[2020]
Classification: SpeleologyFracture Cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: A=600 m asl.
Guided tours: n/a
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Giulio Mancini, Umberto Occhialini (ny): Lo Speco di San Francesco - Guida al santuario, Edizioni Porziuncola, Santa Maria degli Angeli. Italiano - Italian
Giuseppe Cassio (2010): Narni, in Oltre Assisi, Con Francesco nella Terra dei Protomartiri attraverso l'Umbria Ternana, Editrice VelarGorle 2010, pp. 155–191. Italiano - Italian
Felice Accrocca (2016): San Francesco nello Speco di Narni, in Studi Francescani, 113 (2016), pp. 5–29. Italiano - Italian
Mario Sensi (2018): o speco di Narni tra eremiti, osservanti e riformati, in Frate Francesco, 84 (2018), pp. 283–299. Italiano - Italian
Address: Sacro Speco Convent, Strada Sant'Urbano 140, 05035 Narni, Tel: +39-0744-743392. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

1213 San Francesco arrived here for the first time.
1916 convent closed.
1942 convent reopened.

Description

photography
Entrance to the cave, Speco di San Francesco. Public Domain.

The Speco di San Francesco () is one of the most important sanctuaries of the Franciscan monks. It is named after the Speco, a 60 m long escarpment or cliff. This cliff cause tectonic movements in the rocks, which formed fissures and clefts in the rock. The cave of San Francesco, where he used to retire in prayer, is such a tectonic cave.

San Francesco arrived here for the first time in 1213, looking for a retreat. But at that time there was already a Sanctuary known as The hermitage of San Urbano, named after nearby village San Urbano. It was a Benedictine monastery founded around 1000by monks from S. Benedetto in Fundis di Stroncone. The oratory of San Silvestro existed already, but the caves below the cliff were unused.

Behind the oratory is a well, actually a cistern were the monks collected rain water. One time San Francesco became seriously ill, and when he asked for wine in his fever, he was told that there was no wine. So he asked for water, and for the suffering Saint the water turned into wine when he blessed it with the sign of the cross. So the well was called well of San Francesco and Bartolomeo da Pisa said "Here Franciscanism therefore had its Cana". Unfortunately there is no wine inside the well any more, reportedly it was excellent wine.

The main cave is the Speco or slit. It impressed the Saint, when he entered with his hands spread to the walls in the dark, he heard the call of the Passion of Christ, when the earth shook and the rocks broke. The places is deemed sacred, as the Saint covered it with his bodily fluids, or "filled solitude with sighs, bathed the earth with tears, beat his chest, sent out loud moans".

The Cave of San Bernardino da Siena is a niche carved out of the rock, which is quite easy as the rock is layered and has many cracks. The rocks were just pulled with a chisel. Bernardino had a passion for Observance and Franciscan life, and was convinced that it is preserved and nourished in small and secluded hermitages. He celebrated Holy Mass here and held some of his famous preachings. The Cave of Sant'Antonio da Padova was the place were the Saint stayed in 1221 on his way from Assisi to the Capitolo delle Stuoie. It is not open to the public as this part of the monastery is the private space of the four remaining monks.