Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hike to the Hermitage and Back to Baptism

Day 7

For this day in Assisi I was quite excited. Of course we were going to do plenty of walking today but it wasn't going to be just along city streets going from one church to another. Our walk on this day was up to the hermitage on the hills above Assisi where St. Francis and his followers would often go on retreat.

After breakfast and mass we headed of the hill out of town. We stopped first at the Cathedral of San Rufino that we had tried to visit yesterday but found it closed because we came too late in the day. This time there was mass going on. Not wanting to be wandering around inside the church during mass we decided to catch it on our way back down the hill.

Our last stop before actually getting out of town was at a grocery store to grab supplies for lunch. Dave and I got our traditional meat, bread, cheese and beer. Rations acquired we headed up the hill. Once out of Assisi, which we knew we were because we passed through a large stone archway, we tread upon a small gravel path beside the two lane road that ran up the mountain.

I had stopped right past the archway to change into my Chacos which let everyone else get ahead of me. This left me to hike alone which I quite enjoyed. Not that there's anything wrong with being around people, but there's something special about being by yourself on a walk. If you're not talking you take more time to notice the trees that give you shade and wind on your face. Despite being by a road I felt I was able to get a feel for why St. Francis enjoyed walking up here from Assisi.

We stopped of course at a scenic vista and took group pictures (rather, Heather forced us to take pictures) with the Italian countryside in the background. I pretended to fall over the railing. This was not appreciated by Heather.
At the gate of the hermitage we got out our lunches and had a picnic by the side of the road. (I'm going to miss doing that.) Past the gate was a shaded cobblestone path walled on the left with the mossy rock face of the hillside and on the right by a shoulder height stone wall. The hermitage itself, built after the time of St. Francis over the place where he and his followers would retreat to, is a small stone structure consisting of 5-6 rooms built into the hill. It covers the small cave that Francis would stay in while they were up here.
We strolled along the trails that ran through the woods. We found a bronze statue of Francis reclining on the ground, something I imagine he did quite often, several small outdoor chapels and plenty of mud, sticks, trees and rocks. I was especially fond of this second part. It was a nice reminder that God isn't only found within the clean and orderly settings of a church.

Coming down the mountain from the hermitage I had a good talk with Dave. It wasn't about anything particular or particularly important, just a good time. Back in Assisi we stopped again by the Cathedral of San Rufino. This time it was open and there was no mass going on so we went inside. The Cathedral of San Rufino is a nice church, old of course (construction began in 1140) and modestly decorated, but it's important because it's where St. Francis and St. Clare were baptized.

On the way back to our guest house we visited the Church of St. Clare again; a) To spend more time in front of her relics but also to see the original cross of San Damiano, the one that spoke to Francis and began him on his life's work. (See Day 6)

From the hike most people were pretty tired so we didn't do too much in the evening. Some people took naps, others did some shopping or went to the store to get more food for dinner. I did some writing, looked through pictures and savored the last hours in Assisi before the train ride to Milan in the morning.

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