|Ceramics reminiscent of the presence of the Abbey of St. Franco in the Lucoli Abbey|
According to the legend and the very scarce historical documentation on his life, St. Franco was born to a humble family, most likely in the district of Roio Poggio.
Our tour departs from the Sanctuary of Poggio Roio, which is consecrated to the Virgin Mary .It then brings us to the Abbey of San Giovanni di Lucoli, with its cloisters, a valuable example of mediaeval architecture in Central Italy.
|Saint John Abbey|
St. Franco lived here for a few years and soon after became abbot. He longed for a closer relationship with God and decided to look for this in direct contact with nature – in its roughest, but most intriguing form. He, therefore, set out for the Gran Sasso peaks and lived in the village of Assergi for a short period. At the time, it was a stopover for shepherds, later becoming a fortified village, and it is here that the saint’s remains are kept, in the crypt of a magnificent mediaeval church. St. Franco chose the solitude of the mountains, yet still maintained his pastoral vocation, bringing him back to the valley every so often.
There are three places on the slopes of Gran Sasso that still show signs of his presence: the Peschioli Hermitage, at an altitude of about 1.500 metres, nearly corresponding to the intermediate station of the old cableway. Nearby, there is a grotto, which speaks of a meditational and risky solitude. In fact, the spot is still difficult to find and the grotto is nearly inaccessible for those who are not experienced mountain climbers with appropriate equipment, and who do not want to risk a deadly fall. The second grotto, where the saint lived for the longest period and where he supposedly died at an old age, is located below the Pizzo Cefalone, at 1.800 metres, in a harsh but scenic environment. The path leading up to it is not easy to find, and it is an exhausting hike with some natural obstacles. We recommend this trip only to those who have considerable experience in mountain climbing.
The third hermitage, which is the most popular (Acqua di San Franco – St. Franco’s water), can be found on the slopes of the mountain named after the saint. Dying of thirst, the saint is said to have miraculously created a spring of water in the rock – one of the most well-known of the many miracles attributed to him. The water is still said to have thaumaturgic qualities and on the holidays dedicated to this saint (5 June and 15 August), a crowd of pilgrims, some of whom come from Teramano, make their way to the small chapel and wet themselves with the water from the falls lying below. One can even see elderly worshippers climbing up the path, which, leaving from the paved street, “del Vasto,” traces a long route and finally leads to the springs and sacred place, which also offer a breathtaking view of the valley and towns below.