Sunday, October 9, 2011

Montefalco and St. Clare of the Cross

On the Feast of the Archangels, we set out for the monastery of St. Clare of the Cross in Montefalco, a region known for its olio and vino, as you can see in one of the photos below.  I didn't know much about St. Clare and on our way to visit her monastery, one of the Augustinian friars in our entourage told us the story of her life, how she had a vocation from a very early age, and how she came to receive her unusual stigmata.  Clare had vision of Christ dressed as a poor traveler,  carrying His cross, during which it was apparent that He was exhausted and struggling.  He confided to Clare that He had been unable to find any place to lay it when Clare urged Him to allow her to help Him.  "I will plant My cross here," and the Lord implanted His cross in her heart, causing her intense pain.
The main altar in the Church of St. Clare of the Cross.  Photos of her incorrupt body were not permitted, and  I have to say I agree with that decision.  

Upon her death, Clare's heart was removed from her body and found to contain a crucifix with corpus,  nails and a scourge, all composed of fibrous tissue. Clare's incorrupt body lies beneath a side altar in the basilica named for her and her heart is contained in a reliquary.

There is another tradition that has Christ handing Clare a wooden stick which He told her to plant.  In the garden outside the cloisters is a tree not native to  Italy and of a variety typically found only in the Himalayas.  The tree is said to have sprung from the stick Christ gave her.  You may be able to see it in this photo.
The garden where tradition states that Clare planted the wood given to her by Christ

Mass was celebrated in the chapel that was once Clare's cell.  It was a simple structure not normally used for public liturgies but because of the prominence of one of the friars in our group, we were permitted to have Mass there.  I was asked to do the readings that day which I felt was such a privilege given my devotion to Saints Michael and Raphael.  Fortunately, providence had persuaded me to tuck my reading glasses into my bag that day, or I would have had to decline, as I did at the consulate the previous Sunday.

After Mass, we were taken on a tour of the monastery by an adorable sister who just seemed to take a liking to me.  At some point, I remember her taking my arm in hers as we walked, even though I speak no Italian and she spoke no English.  She even encouraged someone to take our photo together, which you also see here.

The adorable soella who offered to pose for a photo with me

Following our tour, Soella took us to the gift shop, where she proudly displayed the rosaries made by the nuns from the seeds of the flowers that grew in their garden.  I thought our group was a bit too loud and apparently, so did some of the other soellas because it was time for their Noon liturgy and the din could be heard in their chapel.  Fortunately, it was time to leave.  I noted a heavenly aroma that smelled like the nuns were baking some sweets and I wanted so much to ask what it was, but I didn't want to give the impression that I was asking for a sample, so I said nothing but commented privately to one of the friars of how wonderful the scent was.  He told me the nuns at that particular monastery, about 12 in total, were excellent cooks and he had been lucky enough to sample their cooking on prior visits.

On our way back to the bus, this merchant beckoned us to sample his wares.  We were not permitted to do so but he allowed me to take this photo just the same.

I felt a lump in my throat at having to walk past this establishment without sampling his produce


  1. Thanks for this lovely post! The church is gorgeous! Looks like you had a lovely time!

  2. The food in Italy is to die for. They treat cuisine as if it were the most important thing in life. All these Italy posts have been great. Thanks for being so detailed Joyce. Did you keep a journal/diary? How do you remember everything so vividly?

  3. Thanks Anne, it was a very lovely trip despite some monkey wrenches.

    Manny, I keep a journal in my mind. I brought a little book with me to write down my thoughts, but it's not how I'm accustomed to writing, so I just tried to write what I wanted to say in my head until I could get home and share it. Believe me, I've forgotten much more than I remember.

    The food was very good but after awhile, pasta at lunch AND dinner got to be a bit much. The soup we got in the Umbrian region was much appreciated.

  4. Two very sweet smiles in that photo, Joyce.

    When I went to Italy years ago to see my family I drove them crazy with my eating fetishes. MANGIA ! I heard every 5 minutes..: ) What you mean no meat!

    You went to so many amazing places ... I could never have remembered so much detail without a written journal. Amazing. +

  5. Caroline, isn't she just adorable? We did a lot of gesturing, etc. Italy is the only country in the world where you don't need to know the language to communicate, so accustomed are people to talking with their hands!

    We ate more meat in a week than I normally eat in a month. Amazing is exactly right!

  6. goo day can i ask what is the complete postal address of the Monastery of St.Clare of Montefalco in Italy. kindly send on my email

  7. So sorry but I do not know the postal address. I will look through my postcards when I can to see if I have something listed there for you.


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