The journey of Saint Francis and Friar Thomas

in the Count of Marsi’s land


This itinerary is a sequence of places of worship, historical monuments, museums, archeological places and natural landscapes, an itinerary that projects tourists into the heart of the history of Celano, the ancient “Caput Marsorum”.
The journey starts from the church of Santa Maria Valleverde set in the square bearing the same name, where you can also find the monument dedicated to Friar Thomas of Celano. The building is connected with the convent that preserves an ancient library. From the square you can go down along via Giotto for a few metres until reaching the ancient mill, from where you can head up a short way leading to the Fonte Saint Francis, located near the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie also the most ancient place of worship in Celano. Heading up this street, you arrive in via Fontegrande leading to piazza Aia home of the monument dedicated to Saint Francis, a bronze triptych portraying a scene from the life of Saint Francis and Friar Thomas. Walking along via Roma towards piazza IV Novembre after around 100 metres you will find the staircase based at the beginning of via Ciavattella taking you to Parco delle Rimembranze a boulevard protected by the walls of the castle. Following the panorama, you eventually find the church of Sant’Angelo that also conserves an altar dedicated to Pope Celestino V. Beside the church you will find the castle Piccolomini of Celano a real jewel of medieval architecture and site of the museum of Arte Sacra della Marsica and the Torlonia collection of antiquities from Fucino.

Taking via Capo del Colle we find the church of Saint John the Baptist, a thirteen-century building that preserves the relics of Santi Martiri, patrons of Celano. Proceeding down the staircase in via Porta Nuova and the cross the entrance bearing the same name you reach via Luigi Giuliani that leads to piazza IV Novembre the heart of the cities historical centre. Nearby we can find the church of Saint Francis, the last stage of the itinerary and the place where the relic of Friar Thomas of Celano is preserved. Leaving the historical centre you can also visit two appealing places such as the “Gole of Aielli-Celano”, a stage for who wants to continue the “Journey of Saint Francis and Friar Thomas ”, reachable by heading towards the motorway tollgate. By taking a small turn into the Foci territory, and onwards to the museum Paludi of Celano or Musè which is placed in the Paludi territory, reachable by the road “circonfucense” in the direction of Avezzano.
Celano has very ancient origins, as the findings from the Palaeolithic period over 18000 years ago are testimony. These relics were found in the Prehistoric museum within the territory of Paludi. The ancient area was of interest not only for the Italic population of Marsi, but also for the Romans who realized its potential and strategic position allowing for the construction of the road via Valeria, an extension towards the Adriatic sea of the via Tiburtina. Celano was considered the most important centre throughout all of Marsica and its dominating position overlooking the now drained lake del Fucino. A city much desired in dreams of feudal power by some of the most powerful aristocratic families during both the middle and the late period, including the Berardi family (the counts of Marsi) and Piccolomini family, the ancient city, placed on mount Tino (or Serra di Celano) was destroyed by the emperor Federico II in 1224. The same emperor Celano who once again resumed the city to a notably important significance as its shires extended from Capua to Ancona, acquiring the title of “Caput Marsorum”, then rebuilt it.

Today the city is placed on the foot of Serra, at an altitude of 860 meters, with a dominating position over the entire Fucino valley. A part of the territory is included in the Natural Regional Park of Sirente-Velino, and here in the past the famous Tratturo Celano-Foggia road started. A really ancient path renown for its pastures. Celano is equally distant between Rome and Pescara, around 610 kilometres from l’Aquila and within its territory you can admire the wonderful “Gole”, a unique example of a canyon in the central Apennines. In this ancient territory you cannot miss the abundance of historic, artistic and religious patrimony, composed by prehistoric findings, places of worship and monuments. This provides all of the elements for a touristic and cultural attraction based on traditional and local cuisine.

Within the deeply significant territory of Celano many famous people were born. Friar Thomas of Celano the first hagiographer of Saint Francis; Giovenale of Celano, a fifteenth-century painter who worked for Pope Giulio V on some frescoes in the Vatican; Pietro Antonio Corsignani an academic, historian and bishop of Venosa, Valva and Sulmona; Onorio, the bishop of Venosa in the fifteenth century.
The shire of Celano was developed around the tenth century thanks to the merged of the Marsican countryside and its surrounding villages. In 1221, three years before the complete destruction of the city, the emperor Federico II conquisted Celano from count Pietro da Celano to then give it to the counts of Segni. The shire passed through the possession of the Berardi family, count of Marsi, and for a short time of Federico d’Antiochia, son of the emperor. Eventually the shire was placed under control of the Angioini, Artois and Aragonesi families who symbol is still visible inside the church Santa Maria Valleverde.

The feudal succession

The famous Regio Tratturo Celano-Foggia was “regulated” by the Aragonesi family under the supremacy of Leonello Acclozamora, recognized as one of the most historically important and popular paths for its pastures. Around the fourteenth century it became a fundamental element for the economy of Celano. Acclozamora and the last heiress and countess Jacovella completed important structural renovation like the finalization of the second floor in the Piccolomini castle of Celano and the three towers which decorate it and the construction of the fort to correspond with the modernization of Saint Francis church. The succession of various feudal changes in Celano led to its possession by the Peretti family, the dukes Cesarini-Sforza and finally their heirs the Sforza-Cabrera-Bodavilla family until 1806 the year feudalism was abolished.
In Celano it is easy to fall upon the history and stories of local cuisine found here. The characteristic culinary memories are linked to farming traditions that reflects the perfect connotation for the popularity of its religious and cultural traditions based around typical products from this territory. Celano’s cuisine is simple, yet lively and often linked to the festivities and folklore. It is prepared in a balanced way using fresh and genuine ingredients loyally taken back to the tables of homes and local restaurants.
Some of the old dishes protected and reproduced today are:

  • Dumplings with chickpeas;
  • Polenta with sauce on “spianatoia” (a wooden board);
  • Quajjatèjje and beans (a kind of soup made with pasta, water, flour and beans);
  • Potato dumplings;
  • Tacquelòzze (a type of pasta) with sauce “di castrato” (lamb ragù);
  • Chicory, cheese and eggs;
  • Potatoes “coppè” (potatoes cooked under ash);
  • Fascarèjje (a kind of local soup);
  • Panonda (bread with pork dripping) made from pigs cheek;
  • Pecora aje cutture (a lamb stew);
  • Lamb with cheese and eggs;
  • Ranatè of Sant’Antonio (omelette with wild mint);
  • frittata con la nupetèlle (frittata con mentuccia selvatica);
  • Pizza sum (local pizza);
  • Black pudding (a sausage make from pigs blood);
  • Christmas pancakes;
  • Easter pizza;
  • Nèvole (“ferratelle” a typical sweet);
  • Mostaccioli (local cake made with chocolate);
  • Amaretti (biscuits made with almond);
  • Carnival frappe (local cakes for the carnival period);
  • Doughnuts made with wine;
  • Nucce atterrate (almonds toasted and glazed);
  • Doughnuts made with aniseed;
  • Tussechèlle (dried and sweet doughnuts);

The path of Creation is a sub itinerary originating from the “Journey of Saint Francis and Friar Thomas ”that from the city of Celano to Pescasseroli the pulsing heart of the Abruzzo’s National Park that passes through the villages of Aielli, Pescina, San Benedetto dei Marsi, Gioia dei Marsi and Lecce dei Marsi.

Places of interest

vista del castello

The Piccolomini castle and the museum of Sacred Art of Marsica

The castle of Celano is one of the most significant findings within this medieval fortification of the city and is marked by the still visible surrounding walls. The construction of the castle started around 1392 after being commissioned by Pietro Berardi the count of Celano. This continued until 1463 when Antonio Todeschini-Piccolomini the nephew of Pope Pio II finished this monumental work.

Initially built as a defensive structure and later modified to a noble residence, the appeal of Celano’s castle is the fusion of medieval and Renaissance elements. The surrounding walls of the structure are sectioned by five cylindrical towers and eleven reinforced. A drawbridge is present allowing the moat to be crossed before reaching the principal entrance. The castle of Celano is of a rectangular plan with four squared towers on the corners adorned by its battlements in a Ghibellino style while at the centre of the courtyard an ancient mill is still visible.

After the occupancy of the Piccolomini family, the castle passed through many different noble families up until 1938, when it was repossessed by the state and declared a national monument. In 1915 a strong earthquake destroyed part of the castle but extraordinary works of restoration brought back its original splendour. Today it is the home of the “Collezione Torlonia di Antichità del Fucino” on the first floor with its ancient roman discoveries including 344 roman bronze coins and the head sculpture of Aphrodite belonging to the III-II century BC. It also houses the “Museo d’Arte Sacra della Marsica” on the upper level which contains many religious artefacts, sculptures and sacred vestments. Orsinis cross dating back to 1335 is of extreme value and also the twelfth-century wooden doors coming from the church of Santa Maria in Cellis in Carsoli and San Pietro in Alba Fucens.


The church of Saint John the Baptist (San Giovanni Battista)

The reconstruction of the church of Saint John the Baptist in the thirteenth century after the destruction of Celano by the emperor Federico II terminated in the fifteenth century. It has a conical stone facade that reminds us of the architecture used on the basilica of Santa Maria in Collemaggio in l’Aquila. The chuch is adorned with a precious Roman gate decorated with a lunette shaped fresco portraying “Madonna con Bambino between San Giovanni Evangelista and Papa Bonifacio IV”.

The image of Saint John the Baptist was found between the rays emitting from this wonderful gothic rose. Inside the church and its numerous symbols of the counts of Celano its three naves are divided by octagonal pillars near the altar where you can admire the relic of Santi Martiri the patrons of the city. The fifteenth-century frescoes on the lateral right nave are valuable of which one illustrates Saint John above the symbol of the count of Celano Berardi-Ruggeri. In the sacristy, an extraordinary fresco has come to light that belongs to the sixteenth century and illustrates the Santi Martiri.

ingresso alle gole di aielli celano

“Gole” – canyon of the central Apennines

Le “Gole” is a rare example of a canyon in Italy, an extremely appealing place where you can enter between the two cliffs by foot and very close to the rocks ravaged by time and water that at its peak reaches 150 metres high and 3 metres wide. The so-called “traversata delle Gole di Celano” that marks the border between the two villages is currently a popular destination of adventurous and enthusiastic trekkers with a passion with open air.

The route although initially quite easy passes between the two cliffs over 150 metres high and 3 metres wide that leads to a very evocative section of the canyon, the “Fonte degli Innamorati” (The fountain of Lovers), where you can stop for a break before heading towards the ruins of the ancient Celestin convent in Saint Marco. The journey ends at the final stage, which is also referred to as the hardest, but not impossible that brings to the D’Arano valley, in the Ovindoli area.

monumento a fra tommaso da celano

The monument of Friar Thomas of Celano

The monument of Friar Thomas of Celano, first hagiographer of Saint Francis, is found in piazza Santa Maria Valleverde in front of the church baring the same name. The bronze sculpture illustrating Friar Thomas was created by the sculptor Pino Conte and inaugurated in 1960 celebrating seven hundred years after his death and is present on the base of the monument illustrating the Saint of Assisi, Santa Chiara and Friar Thomas.

navata della chiesa di santa maria

The church and the convent of Santa Maria Valleverde

The church of Santa Maria Valleverde with its annexed convent is located outside the walls of the historical centre in Celano. The religious complex, commissioned by Leonello Acclozzamora and Jacovella of the Ruggeri counts, was created by Maria d’Aragona, countess of Amalfi and wife of Antonio Piccolomini, represents one of the most important examples of the Franciscan renaissance style in all Marsica.

Outside the church you can find the bronze sculpture dedicated to Friar Thomas of Celano while in a lunette shaped fresco at the entrance of “Madonna con Bambino tra San Francesco e San Giovanni da Capestrano” and the Agnus Dei baring the symbol of the Piccolomini family.

Inside the church not only will you find a crypt frescoed with seven scenes from the Passion of Christ, one of which “Christ going to Calvary” is attributed to Sodoma and the tomb of Bernardino Piccolomini, you can also admire the wonderful wooden choirstall and a chapel with frescoes illustrating the “Storie della Vergine”. An arched loggia and a fountain with the statue of Saint Francis and some frescoes illustrating “San Francesco che riceve le stimmate” notably adorn the cloister of the convent where you can still breathe a spiritual air. Within this splendid refectory we travel upstairs where we find an ancient library boasting a collection of “Pietro Antonio Corsignani” and other manuscripts and ancient papyrus. In the past, you would have also found a prosperous herbalist’s shop. Today, in front of the church there is a museum rich of religious vestments and sacred objects.

chiesa della madonna delle grazie e castello di celano

The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie

The current church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is the most ancient place of worship in Celano, saved by the emperor Federico II who destoyed ancient Celano in 1223. Commissioned by the bishop of Marsi Pandolfo, son of count Berardo II, it was probably built around the middle of the eleventh century and was dedicated to San Giovanni Evangelista.

Today its double facade is characterized by its two gates, the central one baring the symbol of San Giovanni Evangelista with a halo-baring eagle holding a Gospel in its claws. The other gate is known as the “Portale delle donne”.

Inside the church you can admire its religious frescoes illustrating “San Paolo” and “Madonna con Bambino”, and a wonderful font with the symbols of the Ruggeri counts and a sixteenth-century wooden altar. Under its floors the existence of an ancient urban cemetery was testified, while inside the Chapel of the Holy Souls there is an ossuary.

monumento a san francesco

The monument of Saint Francis of Assisi

Placed within piazza Aia, a monument by the sculptor Angelo Canevari was dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi and inaugurated in 1982. It is presented as a bronze triptych made up of six faces each portraying a scene from the life of the Saint Patron of Italy and Friar Thomas of Celano one of which includes the meeting between Saint Francis and a knight of Celano.

altare con statua di san michele arcangelo gesu risorto e la madonna

The church of San Michele Arcangelo

The construction of the church of San Michele Arcangelo, usually called the church of Sant’Angelo, started with count Pietro of Celano and ended around the middle of the 1400s under the supervision of Lionello Acclozamora who thereafter donated it to the Celestine. The facade whit its style originating from l’Aquila has a fifteenth-century gate and a damaged rose, while the interior style is baroque.

Rebuilt twice, after the earthquakes of 1915 and 2009 you can find a memorial plaque of the papal bulls of forgiveness, which gave clemency to who entered the church during the two-day festival of San Michele Arcangelo (the 8th of May and the 29th of September). The altar dedicated to Celestino V is extremely important as are the statues of San Michele Arcangelo and Madonna Addolorata.

navata della chiesa di san francesco

The church of Saint Francis

The current church of Saint Francis was built in 1345 and created in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi who visited the city of Celano twice between 1215 and 1219. Annexed to the ancient Franciscan convent of which today stands in ruins and dates back 1256, the church is placed within Largo “beato” Friar Thomas a place in which the Porta San Francesco was opened.

Today it presents itself by its wonderful facade adorned by a gate surmounted by a lunette shaped fresco with the figure of “Madonna con Bambino fra San Francesco d’Assisi e Sant’Antonio da Padova”. The interior of the church, with its single nave built in a late baroque style preserves two wonderful altars one of which is dedicated to the Saint of Assisi and the other to the “beato” Friar Thomas of Celano.

navata della chiesa della madonna de carmine

The church of Madonna del Carmine

Built in 1573 and commissioned by Costanza Piccolomini, the church of Santa Madonna del Carmine with the annexed to the convent of the Carmelite was completed thanks to a dispensation announced by Pope Gregorio XIII. The outside of the church has a baroque facade reachable by a characteristic staircase of polished stone while the interior with its single nave and in the form of a Latin cross has a late baroque style and preserves six altars and a valuable organ dating back in 1839.

interno della chiesa della madonnina

The church of Santa Maria in Fonte Coeli

The church of Santa Maria in Fonte Coeli is known as the church of Madonnina and dates back to the seventeenth century and is located in the homonymous area. Today the facade does not present its original aspect after being modified by numerous restorations though it is characterized by an eighteenth-century gate. The interior with a single nave preserves the holy image of “Madonna De Fonte Coeli” dating back to the sixteenth century. Every 15th of August the church is a destination of the faithful and the feast of the Assumption.

scalinata frontale

The church of San Rocco

The church of San Rocco faces the square Aia once called piazza Lefraini and was built after being commissioned by Costanza Piccolomini. The facade characterized by its simple architecture presents a seventeenth-century gate while a single nave characterizes the interior.

navata della chiesa del sacro cuore

The church of Sacro Cuore

In the Vaschette district, the construction of the church Sacro Cuore started in 1952 and ended 10 years later when it was opened for worship. Characterized by a modern facade, preserves within its interior the fourteen stages of the Crucifixion and works of art created by important contemporary artists.

chiesetta di san leonardo o chiesetta degli alpini

The church of San Leonardo

The alpine volunteers of Celano at the foot of mount San Vittorio built the church of San Leonardo in 1976. A suggestive place of worship, it is located in a strategic position from where you can admire the entire city and the Fucino valley. Every Palm Sunday the church is destination of faithful for the traditional “Via Crucis”.

vista del monumento ai santi martiri

Monument to Santi Martiri

The bronze monument dedicated to Santi Martiri of Celano (Simplicio, Costanzo and Vittoriano), is located near the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the “Sorgente Fontegrande”. Created in 1904 by the sculptor Antonio Berti it marks the eighteenth centenary of the Saints martyrdom in a work composed of an obelisk and three winged figures pointing upwards.

esterno del museo

Musè – museum Paludi of Celano

The Paludi museum in Celano usually called Musè was built in the Paludi area where an extremely ancient pile-dwelling settlement dating back to the Bronze Age was found. Created as a museum-laboratory and used as an exhibition and educational centre, it preserves the evidence of a prehistoric period that was found in the valley of Fucino territory that in the past was host to the homonymous lake (the third largest in Italy) and subsequently drained by Prince Alessandro Torlonia around 1855 and 1878.


Discover where the most important monuments and the places of interest of the city of Celano are placed; by virtually browsing the stages of the historical centres linked to the “Journey of Saint Francis and Friar Thomas”.

The territory

Visit the City of Celano , home of Fra Tommaso and ancient Caput Marsorum , discover the beauty of a unique area and its local cuisine.

dove mangiare
Where to eat
dove dormire
Where to sleep

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