St Francis of Assisi

St Francis of Assisi: Embracing Nature and Simplicity

St Francis of Assisi is Italy’s patron saint. His profound reverence for all living beings and his deep love of nature can still be experienced today through the Via di Francesco pilgrimage trail.

Life of St Francis

  1. Born in Assisi in 1181, Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, later known as St Francis, came from a wealthy merchant family but chose a life of simplicity and humility.
  2. In 1208, after a profound spiritual awakening, St Francis renounced his wealth, embraced poverty, and dedicated himself to serving others and the natural world.
  3. St Francis founded the Franciscan Order in 1209, promoting a lifestyle of humility, compassion, and deep connection with nature, which attracted a diverse group of followers.
  4. In 1224, during a spiritual retreat at La Verna Sanctuary, St Francis received the stigmata, symbolizing his profound connection to the divine and commitment to a life of self-sacrifice.
  5. St Francis passed away on October 3, 1226, leaving behind a legacy of love for nature, unity with all living beings, and an emphasis on personal growth through spiritual exploration.

St Francis' Deep Bond with Nature

Nature as a Path to Inner Transformation

St Francis’ strong connection to nature allowed him to experience spiritual growth and inner transformation. Embracing nature’s beauty and wisdom, he discovered a deeper understanding of his place within the web of life, fostering compassion and unity with all living beings.

Contemplation in Nature

St Francis believed that nature provided an ideal setting for contemplation, meditation, and self-reflection. 

He spent much time in silent retreat and meditation in the forests and caves and the outdoors, listening and experiencing. Among his famous meditation spots is the Sasso Spicco, a giant rock overhanging, at the mountainous Santuario della Verna.

Immersing himself in the tranquility of forests, he connected with the divine and listened to inner guidance, inspiring pilgrims to seek their own moments of quiet contemplation in the natural world.

Walking the Via di Francesco: A Journey of Self-Discovery

Embarking on the Via di Francesco pilgrimage trail offers personal growth and self-discovery opportunities. As pilgrims follow in St Francis’ footsteps, they explore the natural world and contemplate their own spiritual path. Embracing simplicity, humility, and love of nature, they can foster a deeper connection to the divine and the world around them.

Natural Inspiration

Nature's Influence on St Francis

From the Canticle of Creatures, a poetic tribute that celebrates the divine in every aspect of creation, to his unique bond with birds, the stories of St Francis illustrate his unwavering love for all living beings and the spiritual insights gained from his communion with nature.

Connections to Francis

Symbols, Connections, & Sacred Sites

Discover the rich tapestry of St Francis’ spiritual life through the Tau, his bond with St Clare, and the sacred sites along the Via di Francesco.

St Francis' Cherished Retreat

Sacred Monastery of La Verna

Santuario della Verna is a serene monastery complex nestled amidst the picturesque Apennine Mountains, where St Francis is said to have received the stigmata in 1224. 

La Verna offers pilgrims a unique opportunity to connect with St Francis’ legacy. Surrounded by verdant forests, the sanctuary encompasses a series of chapels, caves, and sacred sites, such as the Chapel of the Stigmata, the Chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli, and the cave where St Francis meditated. 

Today, the sanctuary offers a peaceful retreat for pilgrims seeking solace, inspiration, and a deeper connection with nature.

See more about Santuario della Verna.

Hand on the tree


Embracing the Pilgrim's Spirit

St Francis believed that everyone should live as “pilgrims and strangers” in this world, emphasizing the importance of embracing a sense of humility and detachment from material possessions. 

He himself embarked on several pilgrimages, including journeys to Florence, Rome, and the Holy Land. These experiences shaped his spiritual outlook and fostered a deeper understanding of his place within the larger context of life.

Pilgrimage, as espoused by St Francis, is not merely about physical travel but also represents a journey of personal transformation and spiritual growth. 

As pilgrims traverse new landscapes, they are invited to reflect on their own values, beliefs, and connections with the divine. This journey of self-discovery can lead to a greater appreciation for the interconnectedness of all living beings and inspire a renewed commitment to living a life of compassion and humility. 

Read Our Pilgrim’s Guide

Important Events an​​d Legends of St. Francis

Delve into the significant moments of St Francis’ life, including his early years, founding of the Franciscan Order, and the development of his spiritual teachings, through a comprehensive timeline of events.