Saint Francis founded the 13th century hermitage called Le Celle that you can find on a 5 km walk or bike ride from the city of Cortona. The rustic stone buildings are tucked nicely into the slopes of Monte San Egidio. If you stay at Agriturismo Le Celle it cuts the distance roughly in half.
Le Celle is believed to be the place in which Saint Francis dictated his will in 1226. After a century, the site was nearly abandoned until 1537, when it was occupied by the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin monks. in the early 1800s the monks were booted by the Napoleonic government. It wasn’t until later in the 19th century that they returned.
At first, Eremo Le Celle in Cortona, Italy only included the cell of St. Francis and a small oratory. The cell was very Spartan: it only contained a bed, a chair and a wooden plank fixed to the wall so as to make a desk. Saint Francis often stayed at Le Celle di Cortona: he used it as a stopover when he travelled from La Verna to Assisi or to Siena. There, according to sources, in May 1226 he dictated his ‘Testament’ where his whole spiritual journey is retraced. At that time he was staying at the Monastery of Cortona to try to cure a serious eye problem, but unfortunately the fresh air and the peace of the Cells could not improve neither that problem nor others, and in October of that same year, Saint Francis died in Assisi. After having completed the construction of the Basilica of Assisi, from 1239, Friar Elijah, nicknamed ‘the bricklayer of St. Francis’, devoted himself to the Cells of Cortona. He used the stone from the caves, cutting it into blocks, to build a small oratorio in front of the cell of St. Francis to which he added eight more, equal in structure and in Spartan simplicity. In the small rooms on the slopes of Monte Sant’Egidio it seems that Friar Elia, Il Beato Guido (the one who had donated the place to St. Francis), Il Beato Vito dei Viti, S. Antonio da Padova, S. Bonaventura and Lorenzo da Brindisi all stayed or lived here. — Hermitage Le Celle
A few monks still inhabit Le Celle and will welcome you. You can explore the area inside the Hermitage, then take some of the trails to an old stone bridge or a waterfall.
If you enjoy pleasant walks in the Tuscan countryside and the peace found in remote places of historic interest, be sure to put Eremo le Celle on your list.
Eremo le Celle Pictures
Eremo le Celle Location Map
Zoom out the map to see Cortona to the southwest.