|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Italian Wikipedia. (December 2008)|
La Verna, in Latin Alverna and geographically known as Monte Penna, is a locality on Mount Penna, an isolated mountain of 1,283 m situated in the centre of the Tuscan Apennines, rising above the valley of the Casentino, central Italy. The place is known especially for its association with Saint Francis of Assisi (he is said to have received the stigmata here) and for the Sanctuary of La Verna, which grew up in his honour. Administratively it falls within the Tuscan province of Arezzo and the comune of Chiusi della Verna, Italy.
La Verna and Saint Francis of Assisi
Count Orlando of Chiusi gave La Verna to Francis on May 8, 1213 as a retreat specially favourable for contemplation, and in 1218 built him the chapel Santa Maria degli Angeli. In August, 1224, frustrated by the changes in the Order of Friars Minor, Francis withdrew to La Verna to keep a forty days fast in preparation for Michaelmas and while praying on the mountain-side he received (on or about 14 September) the stigmata. After seeing a vision of a seraphim he began to develop nails of hardened flesh which protruded from his hands and feet. He also began to form a wound in his side like that of Christ. Thus La Verna came to be seen as sacred ground. Pope Alexander IV took it under his protection. In 1260 a church was consecrated there in presence of St. Bonaventure and several bishops. A few years later the Chapel of the Stigmata was erected, paid for by Count Simone of Battifole, near the spot where the miracle took place. The Chiesa Maggiore was begun in 1348, although not finished until 1459.
From the Chiesa Maggiore the friars dwelling on La Verna go in solemn procession twice daily to the Chapel of the Stigmata. On the Feast of the Stigmata (September 17) and on other festivals, large crowds of priests with their people from neighbouring parishes, as well as strangers, visit the mountains, and on such occasions the friars often accommodate and entertain between 2,000 and 3,000 pilgrims. The friary was partly destroyed by fire in the 15th century; it suffered desecration also during the war of this century. In 1810, and again in 1866, the friars were expelled in consequence of the suppression of religious orders; but at present they are in full possession of La Verna.
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