Eremo delle Carceri: a 'thin' place – Paradiso Ceramics Australia | Handmade in Italy


Eremo delle Carceri: a 'thin' place

Saint Francis is the patron saint of Assisi and many places around the area tell stories of his life and ministry in the 13th century.

There are several holy sites in the town, but just outside there is another special place: Eremo della Carceri, also known as The Hermitage (‘carceri’ means ‘isolated places’ from the original Latin). It's located 800m above Assisi in a steep mountain gorge on Monte Subasio.

Map of the Hermitage above Assisi Italy.

Francis dedicated himself to a life of preaching and missions, but throughout his life he and his followers would frequently withdraw to the Carceri to pray in a tiny chapel and the many natural caves.

Around 1400, a small friary was built nearby, and over the centuries various buildings were added around St Francis’ cave and the original oratorio.

The Hermitage (Eremo delle Carceri) is tucked in the side of Monte Subasio in Umbria Italy

It is a silent, peaceful place, with many paths winding through the forest and places inviting visitors to pause and pray or meditate.

Paths wind through the forest at The Hermitage in Assisi

To reach the hermitage from Assisi you drive 4km up a steep, winding road towards Monte Subasio. Serious pilgrims often walk to the sanctuary. Not for the faint hearted.

It is one of our favourite places in Umbria. We recommend visiting the Hermitage early morning before the noisy tourists arrive. There is a sign asking people to be quiet, but few take any notice.

Friars hurry along the path to the hermitage near Assisi

The Hermitage of Carceri is a place of memory, kept alive by a small group of Franciscan friars who still live there. You can join them for morning prayers if you wish.

There are many places to sit and pray or meditate at the Hermitage near Assisi

A gate and short tunnel leads to a small courtyard with a well. Passing through a door marked ‘Sanctuario’, you enter the tiny church of Saint Mary of Carceri; then a very narrow staircase leads to the grotto of Saint Francis, where a sign indicates his stone ‘bed’.

The small courtyard and well before entering the 'Sanctuario' at the hermitage near Assisi Italy

Squeezing through the hermitage’s exit, the cool air of Mt. Subasio gently enfolds you. Following the trail and crossing a bridge, you will see statue of St. Francis with a small boy and a bird. Paths branch off to the left and right, to caves tucked in the forest and clearings with simple crosses and rough wooden seats.

There are many quiet places inviting visitors to sit at the hermitage near Assisi

There’s nothing quite as beautiful as walking in the early morning, mist swirling through the trees, stopping to pray or just sitting quietly by a cross or altar.

Come early morning and drink in the tranquillity of the Hermitage near Assisi Italy.

After the crowds and bustle of Assisi, we find the hermitage is a spiritually 'thin' place, where the presence of God is most tangible and it is easier to encounter Him.

Eremo della Carceri has a calming effect on those who are prepared to pause, be still and listen.

Have you been to the Carceri? We would love you to share your experience of this special place.

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