The Sanctuary of La Verna is the epicenter of the Franciscan faith, evidenced by the inscription above the ancient entrance to the sanctuary, “Non est in toto sanctior orbe mons” translated as “There is no more holy mountain in the world.”
The Sanctuary is located a few kilometers from Chiusi della Verna, “in the raw stone between Tiber and Arno…” (Paradise, canto XI) in the hills of Mount Penna and immersed in the lush forests of the Casentino National Forest Park.
The monastic complex was built at the behest of Saint Francis following a meeting between the Saint and Count Orlando Catani, who was Lord of Chiusi della Verna and the mountain above it. He was so struck by the words of Francis that he became one of his greatest followers and decided to give him the area of Monte della Verna so that Francis would have a place to be alone with his Jesus.
Every year, Francis spent long periods of time in spiritual retreat here and in 1224, Jesus granted Francis his greatest wish and gave him the sacred Stigmata.
The Sanctuary is an example of simple, functional architecture. Inside the oldest part of the Sanctuary, you will come to the ancient Foresteria, where visitors can find lodging, and the small Church of St. Mary of the Angels. This church is a Medieval jewel that was commissioned by Francis following an apparition of the Virgin.
The interior of the church has an image of the Assumption of Mary Into Heaven, an admirable work of art by Andrea della Robbia. Not far away, inside the “Basilica Maggiore,” there are numerous glazed terracotta works of art by Andrea della Robbia, among those are his two greatest masterpieces: the Annunciation and the Nativity Scene.
The Corridor of the Stigmata leads to the most sacred place in the sanctuary complex: the Chapel of the Stigmata. In this chapel there is the largest Crucifixion by della Robbia ever made. It dominates the exact space where Saint Francis was kneeling in prayer when a Seraphim Angel appeared and gave Francis the greatest gift, marking him with the wounds of the Crucifixion.