The Benedictine Chapel, restored by Francis in 1213, is the oldest building, the original nucleus of the Hermitage. The Saint arrived there from nearby San Gemini where they had told him about a beautiful and solitary spot in the woods suitable for meditation with an old chapel dedicated to Our Lady. On a panel in front of the altar, still visible in 1508, he engraved the words he composed (Exhortatio ad laudem Dei FF 265a) and painted putti, animals, birds and plants. After Francis’s visit, the Brothers constructed huts of branches and clay around the chapel to live in. It was the first Franciscan Community at La Romita. This little Chapel is dear and precious to us because Francis worked, prayed and sang here. It reminds us that he preferred churches that were small, isolated, rustic and hidden. Our little chapel measures only 6 square metres. This is where we came together in the early months, when the church was not yet usable, to hear the Word, pray, sing and draw strength for the restoration. We began our work in that oldest and most cherished spot. It is full of ancient energy, and you feel Francis’s presence there. We redid the roof, the floor, the door and the simple window. Now it is a perfect retreat for souls in need of silence, solitude and comfort. It is in fact the most tucked away and intimate corner of La Romita. For us it is a great honour to spend time in the Chapel that Francis repaired with his own blessed and industrious hands.
Excerpt from La Romita: Utopia?, Frate Bernardino, 2020