The journey of Saint Francis and Friar Thomas

in the Count of Marsi’s land

Description of the journey

A journey 230 kilometres long with its 25 stages that weaves between Umbria, Lazio and Abruzzo making it possible by foot or by car, we discover the beauty of an unknown Italy, its hidden corners and religious places close to the monks. The journey of Saint Francis and Friar Thomas is not only a religious and spiritual pilgrim among monasteries, churches, and sacred caves and symbols of spirituality, but a real mystic journey to bring us closer to nature and the ancient villages still preserving their beauty. You begin from the hills in Umbria and go towards the valley at Santa Reatina, passing through Marsica and reaching the Subequana valley. The final aim is to interact with existing paths such as "The path of Saint Francis” and is attempt to spread the pilgrim culture.

The first stage is the Sacred Convent of Assisi, a place that preserves the tomb of Saint Francis. You can then pass through the wonderful city of Spello, said to be one of the most beautiful villages in Italy and then, you find yourself at Trevi, a village where Saint Francis preached, before moving on to Spoleto, considered the “Via di Damasco” of the Saint, before reaching Romita di Cesi, Collescipoli and the medieval village Stroncone. Continuing towards Lazio, the Santa Reatina valley begins, which coincides with Rieti, the shrine of Greccio, built in memory of the first Nativity created by Saint Francis in 1223, and at the shrine of Poggio Bustone, where the real spiritual birth of the Saint began.

Towards the middle of the journey, you find the medieval city of Cittaducale, the church of Santa Maria Apparì and the monastery of Santa Filippa Mareri, placed in Borgo San Pietro within the district of Petrella Salto, where the body of the first Franciscan Saint is preserved. Not far from lake Salto you can continue onwards passing through Fiamignano and Borgorose and then leaving Lazio near the communities of Corvaro and Sant’Anatolia, until reaching Abruzzo with a stage within the ancient Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria in Valle Porclaneta, in the Rosciolo locality within the district of Magliano dei Marsi. Not far from here is Massa d’Albe with its archeological area of Alba Fucens, an ancient roman city, where you can visit the church of Saint Peter, placed where the temple of Apollo once stood. Moving on you reach Celano, ancient Caput Marsorum and the land belonging to the counts of Marsi, where its majestic medieval castle stands out. In the church dedicated to Saint Francis, where you can admire a relic of Friar Thomas. Crossing the “Gole of Aielli-Celano”, a wonderful natural canyon, you enter into the Subequana valley and can walk across its attractive landscapes as you pass through Gagliano Aterno, where, according to historical sources, the “Miracle of the water of Saint Francis” happened. Then you can find Castelvecchio Subequo, the last stage of the journey where you can admire the relic containing the blood of Saint Francis preserved in its homonymous church.
On the occasion of the Jubilee of Mercy announced on the eleventh of April 2015 by Pope Francis, the city of Celano together with the Sacred convent of Assisi, the Subequana valley (guided by the district of Castelvecchio Subequo and the monastery of Santa Filippa Mareri in Borgo San Pietro proposed the Jubilee and the Franciscan journey. This is strictly connected to the figure of Saint Francis, patron of Italy, and Friar Thomas from Celano, first hagiographer and friend of the Saint of Assisi. The journey, called “Saint Francis and Friar Thomas walking on the Counts of Marsi’s land” or “The journey of Saint Francis and Friar Thomas ”, crosses through Umbria and Lazio, retracing the pilgrimages that the two monks made where the Franciscan spirit is still felt strongly and the essence of the philosophy materializes: Peace, Love and Simplicity. The journey, according to the pilgrims’ ideals begins from either Assisi or Castelvecchio Subequo, passing, in both directions, through Celano and Borgo San Pietro. In addition, you can integrate other walks regarding Assisi and its faith.

Some appealing places:

  • The sacred convent of Assisi: Upper and Lower Basilica of Saint Francis;
  • The convent and tomb of Santa Filippa Mareri (Borgo San Pietro);
  • The church (ex-convent) of Saint Francis in Celano;
  • The Franciscan church and convent of Santa Maria Valleverde (Celano);
  • The monument dedicated to Friar Thomas of Celano;
  • The monument dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi (Celano);
  • FThe fountain Saint Francis (Celano);
  • The church and the convent of Saint Francis (Castelvecchio Subequo).

The journey is aimed at rediscovering and promoting the historic, religious, cultural, environmental and local gastronomy of the different places, along the pilgrims path and to increase tourism and the local economy.
The Jubilee, known as "The Holy year", has Jewish origins and consisted of the commemoration of a sabbatical year where everybody rested and slaves were freed, debts were cleared, and the land had to remain uncultivated. The origin of the word jubilee also has Latin roots, “iubilium”, means shout of joy.
According to Catholic tradition, the Jubilee is a year where sins are forgiven, sacrifice were made and changes of faith take place. The year of indulgence given by the Pope is for those who have confessed, repented devotees and those who have followed ecclesiastic instructions. A Jubilee can be either ordinary or extraordinary.

According to certain religious medieval findings, around the 1100s, there was the so-called “Indulgence of a hundred years” announced by Pope Innocenzo III, but historical documents have proven it did not exist. Official proof supports the famous “Perdonanza celestina” announced by Pope Celestino V through his bull of absolution in 1294.

The first official Jubilee in history was announced by Pope Bonifacio VIII with the papal bull Antiquorum Habet on the 22nd of February 1300, gave indulgence to all the people that went to the ancient basilica of Saint Peter or the basilica of San Paolo fuori le mura in Rome. After the jubilee in 1350, it was decided that the following Jubilee had to fall every twenty five years. The last ordinary Jubilee in history was in 2000 under the guidance of Pope Giovanni Paolo II, while on the 31st of March 2015, the current Pope Saint Francis announced the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy through the papal bull Misericordiae Vultus, that will start on the 8th of March 2015 and will end on the 20th of November 2016.
Francis, a religious man and poet, was born and died in Assisi between 1181 and 1226, was the descendant of a noble family. He passed his youth among the aristocratic brigades and his father’s workshop, a textile merchant, but when the war between Perugia and Assisi broke out, he took part in the conflict, was captured and sent to prison. This hard experience contributed to the conversion of his life. Saint and patron of Italy, Francis established his religious and spiritual matrix based on praying and on poverty, he also wrote the extraordinary religious work “Cantico delle Creature”, dedicated to God and his creations. He was responsible for the origin of the “first nativity” shown in Greccio, in the Santa Reatina valleys, a place that remembers ancient Bethlehem. Among the miracles attributed to Saint Francis, the “miracle of the water” must be remembered. This happened near Gagliano Aterno, in the Subequana valley, a place that still preserves the evidence of his presence. Today the tomb of Saint Francis is kept in the homonymous lower basilica in Assisi. It continues to be destination a pilgrimage destination and his name, chosen by the actual Pope Bergoglio as pontifical name, is celebrated on the 4th of October every year.

Friar Thomas was born around 1185 in Celano, probably from a poor family. He met Saint Francis after maturing a classic and ecclesiastic education that allowed him to become historian, poet and monk. He was a friend and the first hagiographer of the Saint that also hosted him in the “Porziuncola” of the city in 1215. He also wrote the famous “Dies Irae” in Latin, an outstanding funeral piece in a religious way that, according to some historic sources, inspired Dante Alighieri for his “Divina Commedia” and Michelangelo Buonarroti for the creation of the “Giudizio universale” in the Sistine chapel. Between 1226 and 1228 Friar Thomas was present at the death and the canonization of Saint Francis and for this reason he was called upon by Pope Gregorio IX to write the life and miracles of the Saint, that he showed as “Vita prima” in 1229. A memory focused on the humanity of Saint Francis. After twenty years he then wrote “Vita seconda” more in-depth and personal, then in 1250 he ended the “legend” of Saint Francis with the “Trattato dei miracoli”. Around 1225 he wrote “Vita di Santa Chiara”, for her canonization. While he was still alive, Friar Thomas of Celano enjoyed fame and sanctity, and today he is celebrated by the Franciscans the 4th of October, together with Saint Francis.

Friar Thomas died in solitude in 1260 at the monastery of the Clarisse nuns of Val dè Varri, near Tagliacozzo. His relic is preserved in the church of Saint Francis in Celano, his Latin works as well as being recognized the most refined of his time, have a fundamental importance both for Franciscans and historians and researchers studying the middle ages. Even with this enormous religious and cultural value, the title of “blessed” does not meet the official recognition by the Catholic church.

Choose the stage and find out

chiesa del sacro convento assisi


Assisi is the patrimony of Saint Francis, the beating heart of the Franciscan order, first or last stage if you begin from Castelvecchio Subequo. Among its surrounding, medieval walls all of the beauty with its historic, artistic and religious heritage explodes, represented by the sacred convent, one the most important places of worship in Italy that preserves the tomb of the Saint.

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cappella di santa filippa mareri

Monastero di Santa Filippa Mareri

Situated near the lake of Salto, Borgo San Pietro can be found within the district of Petrella Salto is one of the most important stages of the journey. In fact, here there is the monastery of Santa Filippa Mareri that preserves the body of the first Franciscan Saint. Not far from there is the cave of Santa Filippa, her place of solitude and a popular pilgrimage.

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affresco dei santi martiri di celano


Observing Celano from a distance is an unforgettable experience. The spectacle of the medieval castle, protected by mount Tino that spires on the city is one of the most interesting in Abruzzo. In the ancient shire of Marsi and Caput Marsorum many famous people were born, like Friar Thomas, the poet and the first hagiographer of Saint Francis.

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chiesa di san francesco

Castelvecchio Subequo

The last stage of the journey (or the first one if you start from Subequana valley) is Castelvecchio Subequo. An ancient roman city placed at the foot of mount Sirente is a strategic point of transit for both the ancient pasture and the religious pilgrims, together with the surrounding villages, making the wonderful Subequana valley, one of the most important jewels in Abruzzo.

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Discover the 25 stages of the journey and the most important places in the life of Saint Francis and Friar Thomas of Celano.

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