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What happens when your day off is a tour in the country with the class? a Gita! Gita is trip in Italian.

This Thursday was an organized trip with the year one class and a few helpers, one and a half hours north of Rome by coach into the hills of the Rieti Valley to a site called Sanctuary of Fonte Colombo. This site and three others in the valley are special because this is where St Fancis of Assisi spent time and in particular at Fonte Columbo completed the final draft of the rules of the Franciscan fiars three years before his death.

Outside the church of St Francis and Bernard in Fonte Columbo consecrated in 1450.

inside the church

The pathway behind the church Leeds down to where the church built and used by St Francis and his original followers.

continuing on down from the church the path winds down the side of a very steep and rocky hill....

and continues down some more...

it then come to a small cave, dug out in the side of the cliff where it is St Francis spent a lot of his time in prayer and contemplation. There is even an alter inside. on the floor is a hole now covered in glass that was the original entrance by stairs cut into the rock.

The original path through the rock is only barely wide enough for one person. There were multiple, caves and crevasses that Francis would squeeze himself into to 'be with God' and he could be in them for days. Refusing food and drink while in there, he was extremely protective of his quite time with Lord.

A small room made in the side of the cliff where it is said that St Francis made up one of the last rules of the Franciscan order having it approved while in meditation with Jesus Christ.

The views from Fonte Colombo are spectacular, combined with the isolation of the lush green hillsides of trees and streams running through the foothills, it is not hard to see Francis's spirituality of being with nature in a peaceful setting. What we don't here to much about is St Francis' brash personality that drove his extreme actions of radical poverty and austerity which he placed upon himself and his followers. Francis never intended to start an order, he was only living this way for his own personal spiritual life. Men were attracted to him and the way he lived out his faith that it is believed he had up 5000 men in the order before his death.

The other monastery we stopped at on the day was Greccio. This is famous for one Christmas St Francis decided to make a nativity under so he could show everyone see what the first Christmas was like. This was the first Christmas nativity made and it is from this site is where our Christmas nativity and midnight mass tradition started from.

As you can see from the above photo this site is also built on the side of the mountain side, and requires many steps to get to. St Francis must have been part mountain goat!

More stairs.

But the view is worth it!

The chapel of the first nativity. It is said that St Francis was inspired by his trip to the Holy Lands (Israel) that he wanted to recreate his experience for the people in Italy. So for the Christmas celebration mass he brought a live donkey and ox, he placed a wooden baby Jesus on the stone which is now under the alter, lay it on some hay and invited all the town people to come at midnight to celebrate mass and see and experience the nativity. At one point in the mass it is said that the baby Jesus actually came alive!

There are pictures of the last two Popes praying in this chapel on the wall and now some other guy.

The bedroom that Francis stayed in (at the end of the passage with the cross), a bit an upgrade on the rock cave I guess.

Monks dormitory.

And a room, and I though Beda was sparse.

The new church dedicated to St Mary built beside the old monastery,

As you can guess the theme is the Nativity, the rear of the church.

A side chapel in the church.

Many different nativities from all around the world adorn the side rooms and passages of the church all having their own unique style.

After this we concluded the Gita with a very lovely lunch in a nearby village again on the side of a steep hill and returned to Rome.

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