17 August, 2019
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Assisi, well-known as St. Francis’s homeland, as well as being considered a mystical land of saints and prayers, preserves and transmits the art of a typically feminine craft. It probably came from the canvases made and used by the Order of Clares in order to take care of their sister Clare, forced to infirmity.

The Assisi Stich, pic via

We are taking about the Assisi Stitch, a type of a geometric embroidery made by a simple technique, but with a very refined result. A typical monochromatic pattern is performed on linen cloth and, it is traditionally blue or rust brown (more rarely in green, yellow and red).

The dyes

Originally the canvases were woven by hand and the yarns were colored by natural dyeing. They made it so until the 19th century. At that time, there were a lot of dyeing plants which permit the main colors to be obtained: from the woad (Isatis tinctoria), for example, they obtained several shades of blue, from the vivid tones to a very pale one. Even from the humble origins of colors and raw materials used in the Assisi stitch speak of the vocation to the essentiality and poverty that strongly characterized the early Franciscans.

The technique

The Assisi stitch is a counted thread embroidery – twisted yarn n° 20 DMC – made on a natural linen cloth with a regular warp, which is called also Tela Assisi.
The embroidery is executed in three steps. First, the contours are traced with a filza stitch, using a black yarn or a darker one than the thread chosen for the fill; then the bottom of the tracing is filled with the yarn of the chosen color by cross-stitching. Finally the work is completed with the edges, executed in a square point. As a finishing touch, they used to embellish the corners of tablecloths or the cushions by applying three tassel made with the embroidery thread. They use a needle with a rounded point.

 

The Assisi stitch in History

There are testimonies of the presence of objects made in Assisi point already since 1300, as well as in the famous pictorial cycle made by Giotto in the Upper Basilica of San Francesco: in the Death of the Knight of Celano is depicted a tablecloth embroidered with the motifs of the Assisi stitch.
The early drawings (those that are now commonly referred to as work patterns) initially rather primitive become, from the 15th century, elegant and meticulous until they reach the great refinement of the 19th and 20th centuries. Frescos, portals, finely inlaid wooden choirs represent the greatest source of inspiration for the motifs to be embroidered on canvas. Each design has a precise name: the little queen is very famous, and represents winged animal figures.

The schools

The teaching of the embroidery technique – to which many young people approached because they wanted to create their own outfit for the future marriage, or to obtain a minimum of economic independence – took place inside the convents, while in the 20th century appeared the first schools such as the Scuola delle Figlie del Popolo at the San Francesco Laboratory, founded in 1902. Today, the San Francesco Laboratory is home to the Accademia Punto Assisi, an association that promotes and enhances this ancient art of embroidery. The latter, founded in 1998 on a ministerial project, occupies the historic premises of the first laboratory set up in the city. There are three fundamental words that animate the members: protecting, passing on and spreading. Traditional embroidery classes are organized for children and adults who want to approach this endangered art, providing opportunities for exchange, collaboration and socialization. The Academy also organizes themed events and competitions to promote embroidery at national and international level.

 


Sources: Tiziana Borsellini, president and founder of the Accademia Punto Assisi www.accademiapuntoassisi.com

Christmas, in Umbria as in the rest of Italy, rhymes with gluttony. Among all the typical sweets, however, there is one that refers to the municipal history of Perugia and the municipalities it subjugated: the pinocchiate.

The Main Ingredient

Called also pinoccati, pinocchiati or pinoccate, to indicate the nature of the basic ingredient – the pine nut – these sugary sweets typical of the Christmas period are born from the massive diffusion of the domestic pine (Pinus pinea) across the European continent. Umbria has not been excluded from such diffusion, so much that it is not so unusual to come across odorous pine forests.
It is difficult to find the precious seeds, as the pine nuts take three years to reach maturity. Despite this difficulty, pine nuts, rich in protein and fiber, have been consumed since the Paleolithic era, especially because they were believed to have aphrodisiac properties. This allowed them to become part of the most refined and delightful human creations, such as the pinocchiate, as they were already known in the fourteenth century[1].
«The nobles and the rich eat them frequently with the first and the last plate. With pine nuts wrapped in sugar dissolved in a teaspoon, you can make the tablets to which you apply thin tears of beaten gold, I think for magnificence and for pleasure.[2]» Thus wrote the gastronomist Bartolomeo Sacchi, called Plàtina, at the turn of the fifteenth century and the sixteenth century; they aren’t our pinoccate yet, but surely they are very close.

Colors

Pinoccate were eaten already in 1300 and this does not seem fortuitous, if we think of the colors of these tasty sweets. Sometimes flavored with lemon, sometimes with chocolate, they are always served in pair, in a delicious two-color white and black match. The memory of the factions of the communal age – the white Guelphs and the black Guelphs – now comes to mind, recalling those struggles between secular power and temporal power that did not even save the areas where these sweets are most widespread – Perugia, Assisi and Gubbio.
Perugia, in fact, in the thirteenth century subjugated first Gubbio and then Assisi, but not before having suffered excommunication for having carried out an offensive against the Ghibellines, contravening a papal veto. Even though the two factions were historically of Florentine origin, these struggles multiplied in every municipality of the Italian peninsula, demonstrating the strong influence of the Florentine capital in that fervent era.
The conditioning is also found in the architectural style and in the heraldic, characterized by decorations in balzana: look at the emblem of Siena, a truncated shield consisting of two full glazes, one silver and one black. And that the city of the Palio had influences on the capital Perugia is out of the question: Perugia, pursuing an expansionist policy, got near not only to Gubbio and Città di Castello, but also to the area of ​​Lake Trasimeno, Città delle Pieve and Val di Chiana.

 

The regular octahedron

Shape and packaging

Peculiar of the pinocchiate is also the lozenge shape which, doubled, gives life to the regular octahedron, one of the five Platonic solids. These figures, in an era like the humanist one, held allegorical, transcendental meanings but at the time aware of the abilities of the man. The octahedron, made up of equilateral triangles – as they were a symbol of transcendence, of divine perfection and of the ascent from the Multiple to the One – symbolized the air, an element par excellence linked to the impalpability of the Divine.
We have to point out that pinocchiate, wrapped like big carnival sweets, were nothing more than throwing sweets, pulled on the nobles who attended the rides and jousts. Sweets with a heavenly taste that, tossed in the air, looked like divine gifts fallen from the sky.

 

Pinocchiate

 

Recipe by Rita Boini

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 kg of sugar
  • 500 g of pine nuts
  • 200 g of flour
  • 1 tablespoon of bitter cocoa
  • Peel of an untreated lemon

 

PREPARATION:

Melt the sugar over a low heat in a glass and a half of water; add the syrup to the grated lemon peel and pine nuts. Mix and add flour. Mix well and, when the mixture is firm but still soft, quickly pour half on a marble surface or on a baking sheet and roll it with a knife blade, in order to obtain a layer of about 2 cm high. Add the cocoa to the dough remaining in the casserole, stir and pour into another corner of the marble top or on another baking plate. Cut and lozenge the two layers and let them clothe. Wrap the pinoccate combining a dark and a light one.

 

Courtesy of Calzetti – Mariucci Editori


[1] Cfr. www.matebi.it

[2] Cfr. www.taccuinistorici.it

 «The (true) landscape is broad and harmonious, quiet, colorful, large, varied and beautiful. Mainly, it is an aesthetic phenomenon, closer to the eye than to the reason, more related to the heart, to the soul, to the sensitivity and to its dispositions than to the spirit and the intellect, closer to the feminine than to the male principle. The true landscape is the result of the becoming of something organic and living. To us, it is more familiar than extraneous, but more distant than closer, it manifests more homesickness than presence; it elevates us  above the everyday life and it borders on poetry. But even if it reminds us of the unlimited, the infinite, the maternal landscape always offers humans a home, warmth and shelter. It is a treasure of the past, of the history, culture and tradition, peace and freedom, happiness and love, of the rest in the countryside, of solitude and health found in relation to the frenzy of everyday life and the noises of the city; it must be crossed and lived on foot, it will not reveal its secret to the tourist or to the naked intellect. »(Gerhardt Hard)[1]

umbria

 

Simmel considered  landscape as a «work of art in statu nascendi»,[2] and it exists on the basis of three unavoidable conditions: it cannot be realized without a subject, without nature, and without the contact between them. The relationship, in particular, is expressed through the signs, the constructions created by man on the territory and then through agriculture,[3] the litmus paper of that union’s happiness. But the relationship can also be the one given by the visitor who, with his curious look, characterizes a zone, linking its significant traits with the concept of typicality.

The Plant of Civilization

Between Spoleto and Assisi, where millions of olive trees follow one another for about thirty-five kilometers, that type of relationship finds its highest shape.
In the Fascia Olivata (Olive Tree Belt), stretched at seven hundred meters of altitude, the history of olive cultivation begins long time ago, indeed. The olive tree is, for Fernand Braudel, the «plant of civilization», because it marks the boundaries of the ancient Mediterranean area; the oil was used as a seasoning, for religious rites, but also in the pharmacopoeia and lighting. On the Edict of Rotari (643 BC), for those who had cut an olive tree, it was inflicted a punishment three times severe than the one imposed on anyone who cut any other fruit tree. Finally, according to Castor Durante from Gualdo Tadino (1586), some olives at the end of the meal helped digestion.[4]
But without spending too much time in reading books, just take a trip to Bovara, near Trevi, and admire the legacy of that tradition with your own eyes. The majestic Olive Tree of Saint Emiliano, with its nine meters of circumference and five in height, is a specimen seventeen centuries old. Leaving aside the story of the decapitation of Saint Emiliano, Bishop of Trevi – attached, at least according to a code of the IX Century, to the plant and then beheaded – the studies have shown that the olive tree belongs to a particular genotype, very resistant, that after the first eight hundred years of life saw the inside of his trunk rotting and then outer parts divide, turning counterclockwise.[5]

A Unique Landscape

The olive growers know that these areas of Umbria require a rather strong cultivar, able to cling to the dry soil, which cannot maintain moisture. The Muraiolo variety has therefore been designated as the ideal plant to ward off the hydrogeological risk in the area and, at the same time, to give that typical oil with a spicy and bitter taste, refined by aromatic herbs.[6]
Its cultivation has also altered the territory, remodeling it, forming a continuous upward strip that is detrimental for the forest. It has characterized the area with embankments, lunettes and terracing, making it recognizable to the point of enrolling it in the catalog of Historical Rural Landscapes, along with the Plestini Highlands, the emmer fields of Monteleone di Spoleto, the hills of Montefalco, the cliff of Orvieto , the knoll of Baschi and the plateaus of Castelluccio di Norcia.[7] Goal that follows the subscription to the Cities of Oil National Association – which brings together all the Municipalities, Provinces, Chambers of Commerce and LAGs producing environmental  and cultural values, centered on PDOs – and preludes to the recognition of the area as a FAO Foods Landscape (it would be the first in Europe) and then as a UNESCO site.
The greatest danger that the landscape can incur – not to be enrolled into collective memory and not to be recognized as characteristic of a Planet’s particular area – is thus avoided: no one, whether it is born in that place or from afar, can now separate the Fascia Olivata from the cities of Assisi, Spello, Foligno, Trevi, Campello sul Clitunno and Spoleto.

 

Guarantees

However, the objective is not to transform the territory into a museum, but to link it with its cultural and community heritage, even to preserve it from the changes that might destroy it. Indeed, the years of World War I are not too far, when the olives were cut to fill the lack of coal in the Northern factories; neither the terrible frosts of 1929 or 1956, which led to a significant contraction in production. Neither the Sixties are not far away, when fashion preferred seeds oil instead of the olive one, as well as failing to find labor for every autumnal harvest. Above all considering that the dictates, established by the Trevi Olive Growing Cooperative, born in 1968 to overcome the familiar dimension, are very strict: all the olives must come from the territory of Trevi, they must be hand-collected  and delivered to the mill within few hours , and they have to be pressed within twelve hours to maintain the right levels of acidity and oxidation.
There is no way for industrialization and mass production: this Strip keeps adhering to the genuineness of ancient things in the same way as it encircles the hilly slopes, even the harshest. In this way the visitor can enjoy it, perhaps walking along the Olive Trail between Assisi and Spello, or along the one of Francis, whose symbol was the olive itself. It will be able to reconnect the silver foliage to the spicy flavor of the bruschetta with the new oil – the Gold of Spello[8] – that will pour into his mouth, giving him the same awareness and wisdom of those ancient Mediterranean people who preserved civilization by gifting the Earth olive trees.

 


[1]G. Hard, Die «Landschaft» der Sprache und die «Landschaft» der Geographen. Semantische und forschunglogische Studien, Bonn Ferd-Dümmlers Verlag, 1970, in M. Jakob, Il Paesaggio, Il Mulino, Bologna 2009.
[2]G. Simmel, Philosophie der Lanschaft, in M. Jakob, Il Paesaggio, Il Mulino, Bologna 2009.
[3] M. Jakob, Il Paesaggio, Il Mulino, Bologna 2009.
[4] Ulivo e olio nella storia alimentare dell’Umbria, in www.studiumbri.it
[5] TreviAmbiente > paesaggi da gustare, 2015
[6] Umbria: protezione di un’origine, a cura di D.O.P. Umbria, Consorzio di tutela dell’olio extra vergine di oliva, 2014.
[7]Da www.reterurale.it
[8] L’Oro di Spello is an annual event that gathers Festa dell’Olivo and Sagra della Bruschetta

 


 

The article is promoted by Sviluppumbria, the Regional Society of Economic Development of Umbria

 


 

More on Trevi

There is a place in Assisi, at Porta Perlici number 6, just inside the walls of the ancient city, which has an important historical memory, meaningful for the city and for the whole region. 

Factory of Needles

The factory

The Factory

It’s a hot Saturday in July when I meet for the first time Giampiero Italiani, the owner of a section of the property that belongs to his family since the 1950s. He immediately define himself as the “guardian” of this special place and tells me with great involvement the history of those walls and those courtyards animated by workers at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century: we are in the ancient Factory of Needles and Pins of Assisi. Why installing a needle factory in Assisi is a question that is unanswered, it is an area that has yet to be investigated and only a few hypotheses can be made. Certainly, this manufacturing activity has been one of the first experiences of industrial revolution in Umbria, witnessing the first attempts to subdivide the production process into work stages and hence the establishment of a young industrial enterprise. 
The factory of Assisi was also special for other reasons, indeed both men and women could be hired and all activity was validated by a written regulation posted at the factory and respected by all workers. In addition of being an opportunity for the city’s population, the factory, thanks to its far-sighted Roman entrepreneur Nicola Bolasco, represented a prime example of regulated work with equal opportunities that safeguarded the conditions of workers, both men and women, each one with their own needs and without any kind of exploitation; by guaranteeing decent employment for the workers, Bolasco anticipated somehow the studies on labor law. The State of the Church is in agreement with Bolasco’s regulation so that it asks for its spread and application in all the manufacturing activities of its territories.

 

Factory of Needles

The code

The Rules

The Factory of Needles and Pins was an avant-garde thing, it was an happy island at a time when labor exploitation was so widespread. A written testimony is the regulation, dated 1st of November 1822, drawn up by the owner of Nicola Bolasco. It is made up of 17 articles and the preface implies respect for them not as simple imposition, but as a good standard to be respected, in a climate of participation in work to achieve a common purpose, i.e. a massive production made in a serene environment. Some articles reveal great modernity and mental openness; working hours are established, but entry and exit times may vary according to some needs dictated by the time of year, from daylight to cold. It is also possible to bring work to be done at home in accordance with the rules and everyone is allowed, after authorization, to visit the factory and to see the work closely. Everything is made in a public and transparent way.
The factory was built in the territories of the Pontifical State for which regulation is essential to demonstrate a strong moral integrity, especially because there are workers of both sexes, and therefore Bolasco defines other rules to be respected: the entry of male employees is retarded, so male and female employees will not meet each other. There are diversified tasks to be held in separate rooms, and for no reason is allowed access of a man to the rooms of women and vice versa.
Above every rule however, there is this one: all the employees, to be hired, must bring a written letter from their parish priest, called the Morality Certificate, a kind of letter of reference attesting the integrity and good conduct of life of the future worker of the factory! 

The Current State

Today the old factory is not very visible to the profane eye. Thanks to a precious guide, I had the privilege of knowing, I can read some of the signs of architecture that make me wonder how the factory could be during its activity. Looking at the large entrance door, iron made, which separated the main courtyard from the pavement, one can observe a particular, a sign that stimulates the reflection. A symbol, probably a logo – a tip with two curls, an image that differs from many other symbols in the city – as a reference to the factory activity.
Entering into the large courtyard, Giampiero Italiani illustrates me the building made up with the stone of Assisi – which housed the manufacturing business and now has been housed for decades private homes – the entrance doors and the place where the old stairway leaded upstairs, where a large terrace now stands. It leads me to one of the main rooms, perhaps one of the largest, a stone and brick room that still has an ancient look, and then to the beautiful courtyard at the back where activities probably associated with manufacturing took place. One of the most quoted could be, at very precise times, the shearing of the sheep coming from the mountains by accessing through the Perlici Gate and this could also explain the strategic location of the factory within the city fabric. Currently this courtyard, immersed in the greenery lush bushes, fruit trees and shrubs of scented roses, is known by the Assisi population as the needle garden.
Since two years, the hall and the garden have been made available by Giampiero Italiani for cultural activities related to factory activity, but of great relevance: from the right to work to the rights of female employees and women emancipation, finding favor of associations and local institutions. The 1820’s Needle Factory is now a culture factory. 

 

assisi

The courtyard

The Future

There is still much to discover on the needle factory: there are still many topics to look into and many are the unanswered questions; Giampiero has brought to light this reality and is working to convey as much attention as possible to this cultural asset. It is desirable that the curiosity of the researchers, coupled with the interest of the institutions, bring to light new realities that will enrich the local history of the Nineteenth Century with new dots.

 

 

More on Assisi

A Day for Custody of Creation; a journalistic information forum to find new ways to narrate Creation; a path, along the Francis’ Way, to follow the steps taken by the Saint during the long and stiff winter of 1206. 
A tripartite celebration, from September 1st to 3rd, which has primarily the aim to spread sustainable tourism, but also to protect the cultural heritage and the landscape beauty in which these monuments, like us, are plunged. The common denominator is the Saint of Assisi, Italy and Ecologists Patron Saint: who better than Francis, who had wandered in these lands abducted by their magnificence and perfection, could have been the symbol of a renewed attention to the environment? 

Eremo di San Piero in Vigneto

Eremo di San Piero in Vigneto

The Pilgrimage

At its ninth edition, the 50 kilometers pilgrimage from Assisi to Gubbio is an opportunity to enter in the atmosphere of this celebration. It is, in fact, the route made by Francis after his dispossession, the gesture of the radical rejection of the comforts he had been used to, a sort of prelude of a rather symbolic clothing, not only because the bag that he will be gifted will become the symbol of his Order, but also because nudity will allow him to wear the Eden’s splendor, the emblem of an harmonious world.
It is precisely on this assumption that the path begins, articulated not only on the places the Saint actually visited, but also on the unique value they have had for the elaboration of his doctrine, borrowed from the beauty, simple and essential, of Creation.
Starting from Assisi, the first stop is in Pieve of San Nicolò and then in the Church of Santa Maria Assunta; then you will arrive at Biscina Castle and at the Church of Caprignone, where the Saint proclaimed itself, in front of some bandits, «the Herald of the Great King». After being beaten, Francesco found a shelter at the Abbey of Vallingegno, another stage of the pilgrimage, that we reach after having been supplied with drinking water at San Piero in Vigneto, a Benedictine hermitage similar to a fortification. In Vallingegno, Francesco was welcomed reluctantly, and he was reduced to a simple scullery boy; he will come back several times, testifying its love for animals.  
Undoubtedly, however, the most famous episode concerns the wolf, the beast that Francis managed to tame near Santa Maria della Vittorina, the last but one stage of the pilgrimage before the goal. Gubbio stands indeed not too far, among the silvery olive trees, ready to welcome the hikers in the Church of St. Francis, whose unfinished façade reflects the statue of the saint with the wolf, a character of primary importance in the definition of the holy figure.
But if every church and every corner of Assisi shines out of the aura of Francis, it is in Gubbio that the most significant biographical turns have taken place. Here Francesco worn the habit for the first time, here he found his friend Giacomo Spadalonga, a mate during the imprisonment in Perugia after the defeat of Collestrada. And it is always in Gubbio that the Bishop granted Franciscans their first cenobia, at least according to the proto-biographer Tommaso da Celano. 

 

I pellegrini arrivano a Santa Maria della Vittorina (edizione 2016)

Pilgrims arrive at Santa Maria della Vittorina (edizion 2016)

The Forum

A similar path, though dedicated to communication experts, is also the novelty of the annual Catholic Information Forum for Custody of the Creation. Starting from the new – and emblematic – Sanctuary of the Dispossession in Assisi, the forum will first reach the village of Valfabbrica, where will be presented the new Horse Slow Way (Ippovia), whose main aim is to improve this part of the route along the Francis’ Way. Indeed, is  many women and men, perhaps accompanied by trusted friends on a leash, had embarked on this route both on foot and by bicycle, the part dedicated to the equestrian tourism was not sufficiently valued so that they often encountered slippery asphalted tracts and scattered points of refreshment. Hence the idea of ​​strengthening the Horse Way – according to an integrated project between the municipalities of Valfabbrica, project leader, Assisi, Gubbio and Nocera Umbra, supported by Umbria Region and Sviluppumbria – with farriers, assistance and food refreshment points for riders and horses: the path from Gubbio to Assisi will stand as a symbol of slow tourism, a perfect way to enjoy the beauty of the landscape around us.
The Forum, organized by the Greenaccord Onlus Association, will then route to Gubbio where, among artistic and spiritual hot points, they will discuss the responsibilities of the Press on news sharing after the post-emergence, in order to help affected areas’ rebirth. Within this articulated dialogue, those journalists who have distinguished in the spreading articles on issues will be awarded the honorary title of “Creation Sentinel”. 

 

Pilgrims on horseback

Pilgrims on horseback

The Word Day of Custody of Creation

Each of these paths will find its epilogue on September 3rd, with the solemn liturgical celebration for the Creation Day, broadcasted live on Rai Uno. Travelers in God’s Land – the theme chosen for this twelfth edition – is nothing but the summit of the two experiences previously described. It is the perfect title of a story of inner growth, which is based on respect for the surrounding world; is the perfect prelude to the World Tourism Day of September 27th, which is also geared to sustainable tourism, one hundred percent. 

 


 

The article is promoted by Sviluppumbria, the Regional Society of Economic Development of Umbria

The hermitage of Santa Maria delle Carceri, evoked, and evokes now, appealing and leading emotions, and feelings for the writers that in the past went there. Now it does that for the people that go there ether to study or to create a guided tour.

A charming place

Once, a Franciscan Belgian priest, of whom we don’t know the true identity, visited this hermitage at the beginning of the XVIII Century, and it defined it «a very devoted desert».[1] A century after his visit, the journalist and writer, Thomas A. Trollope, wrote: «The monastery […] an overhanging ledge of rock, harder and offering greater opposition to the action of the weather than the stratum immediately below it».[2] At the beginning of the XX Century, the poet Olave M. Potter, described the place as «a wrinkle on the side of the mount Subasio, […] a little world of dreams and sweet memories».[3] And again, today Enrico Sciamanna, couldn’t resist making a poetic description of the hermitage: «the Carceri are a white eye in the green of the holm oaks of the woods of Subasio. An always opened eye on the world towards the sky».[4]

hermitage in assisi umbria

The Name

The name of this place though, that should represent and hermit for ascetic, may be in contrast with all the poetic feelings and suggestions that we see described by the visitor of ancient times: “Carceri” that means “prisons” from the Latin carcer as a synonym of “heremus”, translated in “hermitage” has been used in some documents from the XIII Century, meaning the will for a spiritual “imprisonment” that Saint Francesco and his followers wanted. But the name can also come from the hermitage that looks much like carceres, meaning prisons.[5]

The History

The history of the hermitage of Saint Maria delle Carceri begins with the place where it is build, chosen by Saint Francesco. He found these karstic caves, a perfect place for mystic ascesis and meditation, and they were near an oratory, that the Saint dedicated to Virgin Mary.[6]
In the second half of the XIII Century, they started to build humble constructions, near the hermitic caves, that can be found by the high horizontal section, parallel to the chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Since then, Carceri represents an important place for the Franciscan religiousness.

The Structure

mystical places in umbria

The cell

From a big vault you get in a suggestive triangular terrace called “Il chiostrino dei frati” translated in “the little cloister of monks” that overlooks on a rock cliff, where the Carceri is build, shaped in two rimmed arms. Above the door of the monastery, you can see a monogram of Saint Bernardino, on the inside you can find the refectory and, upstairs, the dormitory, and the monks’ cells.
From the cloister you can go to the chapel of Saint Bernardino, and above its door you can see an inscription of the name given by Saint Francesco to the original chapel. In the chapel you can find only one window, closed by a French glass from the XIII Century, but moved in here only recently, where the Virgin Mary with the child is represented.
Then, you can see the original chapel of Saint Maria delle Carceri, engraved in the stone. Above the altar we can see a fresco of the Virgin Mary with the child and Saint Francesco, over a Crucifixion of the XIII Century, done by Tiberio d’Assisi in 1506. Close to it, we have the choir, where the wooden stalls form the Saint Bernardino period. Going down from a staircase, you arrive in Saint Francesco cave, now divided in two rooms, one is a stone bed where the Saint used to rest and the other is a little cell where the Saint used to pray and meditate.
On the outside you can see a fresco of the Predica agli uccelli, while on the floor you can see a slab, with a little window from which you can see the end of the cliff. Legend has it that the cliff was made by the devil, once expelled from monk Rufino.
Going up from there, you can go in the chapel of Maddalena, where Barnaba Manassei rests. In the woods over the place you find the caves of Rufino and Masseo. Over a bridge you can see a bronze sculpture of Saint Francesco, represented while he frees some turtle-dove birds, the sculpture was made in the late XIX Century, by Vincenzo Rosignoli. From here you can see a long boulevard and, at the end of it, there’s a theater, engraved in the stone, used for liturgical functions, for the pilgrims. Going down on a steep path, you will arrive to the hermitic caves of monk Leone and the first followers of Saint Francesco.[7]


Reference Texts

Guida di Assisi e de’ suoi dintorni, Tip. Metastasio, Assisi 1911, pages 47-49.
Gatti, Le Carceri di San Francesco del Subasio, Lions Club di Assisi, Assisi 1969.
P.M. della Porta-E. Genovesi-E. Lunghi, Guida di Assisi. Storia e arte, Minerva, Assisi 1991, pages 175-178.
Lunghi, Santa Maria delle Carceri, in Eremi e romitori tra Umbria e Marche, Cassa di Risparmio di Foligno, Foligno 2003.
Sciamanna, Santuari francescani minoritici. I luoghi dell’osservanza in Assisi, Minerva, Assisi 2005, pages 60-68.
Zazzerini, Eremo di Santa Maria delle Carceri, in L. Zazzerini, In ascolto dell’Assoluto. Viaggio tra gli eremi in Umbria, Edimond, Città di Castello 2007, pages 2-9.


[1] The unknown Belgian Franciscan, visited the hermitage between 1726 an 1733, he left a memory, and we can find in a book written by A. Sorbini in Assisi nei libri di viaggio del Sette-Ottocento, Editoriale Umbra – ISUC, Foligno 19, page 46.
[2] T.A. Trollope, A Lenten journey in Umbria and the Marches, London 1862
[3] O.M. Potter, A little Pilgrimage of Italy, London 1911, translated from the quote of A. Brilli-S. Neri, Alla ricerca degli eremi francescani fra Toscana, Umbria e Lazio, Le Balze, Montepulciano 2006, pages 23-24
[4] E. Sciamanna, Santuari francescani minoritici. I luoghi dell’osservanza in Assisi, Minerva, Assisi 2005, page 68.
[5] Look in M. Sensi, L’Umbria terra di santi e di santuari, in M. Sensi-M. Tosti-C. Fratini, Santuari nel territorio della Provincia di Perugia, Quattroemme, Perugia 2002, page 75.
[6] An inscription from the fifteenth century, on the arch of the church door sais “Sancto Francesco puose a q[u]esta chapella el nome di Santa Maria” meaning “Saint Francesco gave at this chapel the name of the virgin Mary”. Look at M. Gatti, pages 35-36
[7] For a better description of the Carceri, look at P.M. Della Porta-E. Genovesi-E. Lunghi, Guida di Assisi. Storia e arte, Minerva, Assisi 1991, pages 175-178.

«Who works with his hands is a laborer. Who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. The one who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist»

(S. Francesco)

My name is Anna and I am a designer. My great passion for home, furnishing and everything is done by hand, allowed me to fulfil my great dream: nowadays I had the good luck to do the job I like.

I was born in Assisi and I have always lived in my native village, the birthplace of St. Francis; for love of my country and for working reasons I settled here; in the last few years I have met several artisans on my way and I have establish with them many relationships to give a contemporary interpretation of all that is traditional.

Was it bound to happen? …maybe! My father is a craftsman, a carpenter and a restorer. As a child I spent a lot of summers in his workshop where I still pass my time, indeed my father is the main craftsman I work together with.

In this column I will talk you about arts and crafts, materials, design, creativeness, all those places characterized by Umbria’s outstanding features which are done good and with heart!

The Joiner's Workshop

Today my journey starts closely, from the place which affected me to become a designer: the Workshop of Fulvio Bertinelli.

The carpenter’s shop is welcoming: it is located in an industrial estate but fortunately it gives onto the country, whereas the higher windows overlook the Assisi hills and all other small villages surrounded by vegetation. This place looks contemporary but has an ancient flavour… it preserves an old knowledge about the technique and experience handed down! Whenever I enter, I am immediately affected by the evocative scent of wood, which takes me back to another dimension arousing an exciting sensory play. It happens every time! However, before losing myself in stories about essences and features of this material that I love, I wish to talk you about the work in carpentry.

Tools

All work done by my father is handcrafted; in the joiner’s shop there are some modern machines which are very indispensable to work, even if many steps necessary to manufacture a piece of furniture are still carried out by hand, with manual machines, as we did hundreds of years ago.

Plane, file, rasp, chisel: they are small tools offering a great charm to the handcrafted furniture. It keeps knowledge, techniques, and the good produced will show evidence of handwork made in a precise, meticulous and careful way. From the accurate and skilled work of the carpenter, wooden boards turn into high-quality and well-finished masterpieces. Oil, shellac, beeswax: they are just some possible natural finishes, but since wood is a natural and living material, these finishes are the most recommended to the customer who wishes a first-rate and “green” object, one hundred per cent.

A Balm for the Senses

The carpenter’s job is surely a complex one; it consists of stages of study and research, feasibility study, employment of the technique, choice of wood and finishes… But I think this job offers you the great privilege of being in contact with a living, warm, scented, coloured material that is also agreeable to the touch. So, the sensory play is again stimulated when I observe and touch all the essences that are in the shop; mostly local woods, that are typical of our territory: the valuable, solid, smooth and rich brown walnut; the white and “rough” oak, often treated with the technique of brushing; the soft and white poplar of modest value, Albanello of old craftsmen; the bright pink cherry, chestnut with its clear nuances, the mystical, bended and knotted olive…

Wood is fascinating, we feel better when we touch it and smell it. I have performed an experiment, recently: I kept wood chips of different essences in hermetic sailing jars (so the smell of the freshly wood is not lost!) and I got many people to smell them. The evocative power of these scents is surprising… nobody left without a memory called back to mind!

Tell me: aren’t you curious to go in the carpenter’s shop to see, touch and smell?

 

 

 

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