I have been working with the National Council of the Secular Franciscans. Their Quinquennial is next August in Pheonix. All thirty regions of the third Order will be gathering there. This La Verna painting is one piece that was created to support this event. It is not an exact representation of the actual landscape. It is rendered as a symbolic glorifying of that location.
St. Francis spent many days there in prayer and contemplation. It is where he received the Stigmata. (Stigmata, in Christianity, are the appearance of bodily wounds, scars and pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ, such as the hands, wrists and feet.)
Count Orlando of Chiusi gave La Verna to Francis on May 8, 1213 as a retreat specially favorable for contemplation, and in 1218 built him the chapel Santa Maria degli Angeli.
"I have in Tuscany a diverse little mountain, which is called the mountain of Alvernia, which is the very lonely and savage place and it's good for those who want to do penance in a place removed from the people, or those who want to lonely life. If you like, I will gladly give it to you and your comrades for my soul.” (Count Orlando of Chiusi della Verna before donating the mountain to St. Francis of Assisi, 1213.
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. As he arrived he was allegedly received by a multitude of singing birds which surrounded St Francis, some perching upon his shoulders, some on his arms, and others at his feet. While praying on the mountain-side he received (on or about 14 September) the stigmata. After seeing a vision of a seraphim 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.
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