photo © Louise Shapcott
The Convent of San Francesco
In 1222 St Francis of Assisi came to the Val di Comino to devote himself to prayer and spiritual growth. For three years he remained in Vicalvi where the Benedictines of Montecassino let him use a small chapel dedicated to the Holy Cross and two little rooms next to it. This was later enlarged and turned into the present day convent. It was during his stay in Vicalvi that San Francesco decided to join the priesthood, but before going to Atina for his ordination he is said to have had a vision of an angel carrying an ampulla filled with purified water. The angel dissuaded him from becoming a priest and advised him that he was to remain as pure as the water in the flask.
On following his example the Franciscan cult spread throughout the valley. Three new convents were built dedicated to San Francesco. One in Alvito, one in San Donato Val di Comino and the other in Atina.
The present Convent of San Francesco was built in 1620 at the base of Monte Santo Stefano (in what is now Piazza Garibaldi) on the behest of Pope Urbano VIII. It was given to the monastic order of the Frati Osservanti. With the Unification of Italy, which was also known as the Risorgimento, many monastic orders were repressed. So in 1866 the monks were forced to leave the monastery. Ownership then passed to the municipality of Atina. The building was damaged during the Second World War and was restored in 1946-1947. It was once again restored following the earthquake of 1984.
The Interior of the convent is spacious and has an internal cloister. The adjoining church consists of one nave and three chapels and contains some Baroque altars. It contains an 18th century painting depicting The Death of San Francesco and a fresco depicting La Pietà. The facade of the church has a portico with four arches.
Close-by to the convent is the glass pyramid that covers the remains of an ancient water cistern.
The Feast Day of San Francesco in Atina
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