3: San Damiano

San Damiano, a short distance outside Assisi, is very sacred place, built over a Mithraic temple in the eleventh century as an oratory. By 1205 it was in ruins, and as such is the site of one of the most significant Franciscan legends.

Here is how St Bonaventure tells the story.

  On a certain day, when he had gone forth to meditate in the fields, he was walking nigh the church of Saint Damian, which from its exceeding great age was threatening to fall, and, at the prompting of the spirit, went within to pray. Prostrating himself before an Image of the Crucified, he was filled with no small consolation of spirit as he prayed. And as with eyes full of tears he gazed upon the Lord’s Cross, he heard with his bodily ears a Voice proceeding from that Cross, saying thrice: “Francis, go and repair My House, which, as thou seest, is falling utterly into ruin.”

Francis did his best, which, as we have seen, outraged his father.  
The crucifix which spoke to Francis is still in existence: it is now in the church of Santa Chiara.

  After the repairs were completed, the female Franciscan Order, the poor Clares, was set up here, though being outside the walls and therefore vulnerable it moved to San Giorgio, now Santa Chiara.
    San Damiano is a magical place, not to be missed when visiting Assisi. Close to it is this powerful image of the meditating St Francis.

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