TREKKING AROUND LAVERNA MONASTERY
trough the fairy forest on the traces of a lost pagan temple
From La Beccia to Laverna the sacred rock trough the Fairies Forest.
The meeting point is at La Beccia where’s a group of house a Locanda with few rooms and a little bar where we can take a coffee or do an Italian breakfast before the trek. from La Beccia start the old stoned path to the sanctuary.
The drive up the mountain is glorious. La Verna is full of history. The monks seem an impressive, humble group. The monastery is close to the summit, surrounded by trees, with deep silence and magnificent views. If there is only one trip you make while in the area, this should be it. Wonderfully inspiring.
The Path From la Beccia to Laverna
What we see
The “Forest of fairies”, Laverna rock, Sasso Spicco, Laverna sanctuary, panorama
The legend of St Francis and the Laverna goddess sacred rock
In the place where is today the christian monastery named La Verna, thousand of years ago was a sacred place. Often it happened in the ancient time that some natural phenomenon such as an enormous rocks higher than the rest of the land around was considered aa god sign and became sacred for the ancestor. The Ayers rock in Australia or the Sasso di Simone not far from Laverna.
The Laverna rocks and forest before St Francis d’Assisi arrived and built a christian monastery, was a place sacred to Laverna goddess. More than 2000 years ago in the Roman mythology, Laverna was a goddess of thieves, cheats and the underworld. And before the Roman the Egypthian pray her with the name of Serapide. She was the connection between the darkness and the light, death and life. She was propitiated by libations poured with the left hand. The poet Horace and the playwright Plautus call her a goddess of thieves.
We have no documents today about the ancient temple, that was ruined by the S. Francis, his monks and the count’s soldier, but walking in the Forest of Fairies – the name used by the local people for the forest around the monastery – we can try to understand what happened in the ancient time in this magic place. And why this place was considered magic.
The Christin legend of St Francis and the real history
According to Christian legend, more than 1000 years ago a local count Orlando of Chiusi, was so impressed with St Francis that he gave him the mountain of La Verna as a place of contemplation, prayer and solitude in 1224.
The real reason, the count gave the place to St. Francis, probably was that the forest was a very dangerous place because the inhabitant was pagan who believe in Laverna , not christian people and out of the control of the count power.Using the christian monks influence on the village around and his soldier he fighted and killed all the pagan people and take control of the place.
The fairy forest, Sasso Spicco and the caves
Places and their ancient names tell us that something happened before the christian came here. The people around the rock call the wood the Fairies Wood. In the Italian tradition several place that was considered sacred by the ancestors got the name .. of Fairies in the modern time.
Most of the magic place of the monastery where St Francis did miracle, was connected to the ancient Laverna rites. The Laverna religion use to celebrate the rites in the caves focusing on the connection between darkness and light, death and live. The Sasso Spicco, an enormous stones suspended between two rocks, was probably since the ancient time a sacred place.
Probably the most part of people there was followers of Laverna so S. Francesco, to convince them to pray Christian God and not Laverna, had to demonstrate he was the new master of cerimony.
During his stay at La Verna, St. Francis did several miracle and the most important was strictly connected with the rites of death and resurrection of Laverna: after he fighted with devil he asked God to allow him to participate with all his being in the Passion of Christ. After this, a crucified seraph appeared to him and he received stigmata.
The Laverna Sanctuary history
The Sanctuary of La Verna (Santuario della Verna) is a monastery closely associated with the Christian Saint Francis of Assisi, who is said to have received stigmata on the mount where it is located. Today, the Sanctuary of La Verna is an important place of pilgrimage and has a museum about Saint Francis.
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’s 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.
The sanctuary is rich in art specially for sculpture by Della Robbia family