THE SANCTUARY OF LA VERNA
The Sanctuary of La Verna or Mt. Penna if we use the geographical name, is such a special place that it cannot be left out from your hiking trails within the National Park of the Casentino Forests.
Along with the Holy Hermitage of Camaldoli, it is one of the main spiritual and religious places of the area.
The sanctuary was built on the ancient pagan place of worship of goddess Laverna, protector of refugees and the hiding places typical of this mountain territory.
The construction of the first hermitage units dates back to 1213, when Saint Francis met count Orlando of Chiusi della Verna who wanted to donate him this mountain. In the following years the place was used for different and long periods of retreats. The last visit of Saint Francis to La Verna was in summer 1224, when he was already tired and sick.
He retired here in August for a 40-day fast in preparation to Saint Michael’s celebration. On September 14th 1224 he obtained the stigmata while he was immersed in prayer.
This event is mentioned also by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy.
With the stigmata started the construction of a proper sanctuary. Since then La Verna became a sacred place and an international pilgrimage site.
Very interesting is the monumental forest of La Verna that the Franciscan friars have cared and respected for centuries, an example of a perfect balance between man and nature.
The main species are fir and beech. Some trees reach 50 m of height and 180 cm of diameter. The forest is also characterised by many different species of herbs, wild animals and birds.
It is the History, the Culture, and above all the great Spiritual value transmitted by St Francis to His mountain that make La Verna a very beautiful place.
The Nature Trail climbs to Mt. Penna (1,129 m.a.s.l.) and crosses a place of great naturalistic and spiritual value where religion and nature live together, as an ancient sentence written on the entrance door of the Sanctuary recalls: “Non est in toto sannctior orbe mons” (No holier mountain exists in the world).