Le Celle Hermitage CONVENT OF THE SANTISSIMA TRINITA' (16th century) In 1545 Dionisio Boni and Galeotto Sernini of Cortona had a convent constructed for the community of the Benedictine Cistercian Nuns. It was constructed to incorporate an oratory from 1349 and a hospital for pilgrims run by the laical company of the Holy Trinity. In 1785 the construction took over the monastery of Santa Caterina below it, becoming a vast monastic complex with austere and simple architecture, which host the two churches above. In the upper more recent church is preserved the body of the Benedictine nun Venerable Veronica Laparelli (1537-1620), in the lower unused church is preserved that of San Felice, brought to Cortona from the catacombs of Rome. The altar that contains his remains was constructed in 1921 following some designs by Cortonese architect Domenico Mirri (1856-1939) and is decorated with a painting attributed to the workshop of Andrea del Sarto representing "The Trinity with Baby Jesus".

CONVENT OF SANTA CHIARA (16th century) This convent was constructed for the community of the Clarisse Franciscan Sisters, which had been established in Cortona since 1225 when Saint Francis was still alive. They were originally housed at a hermitage in a place called Marignano, today called Contesse. In 1237 they moved from there to another hermitage in Targe, which is now the site of the cemetery. In 1581 the community moved from Targe to this convent which had been constructed for them by Bishop Ughi following designs by Vasari. Luca Berrettini, Piero’s father, supervised the work. The area where the convent was built was the site of a cistern in Roman times of which many traces are visible. It is a cistern which probably supplied water to a series of hot baths, which were called in medieval times the Bath of the Queens, which occupied the zone where it was built the Church of Saint Francis. The Vasarian style is easily recognized in the grand entrance hall and in the church on the right of this hall. In 1650 the West end of the convent was extensively expanded. The church has a very evocative atmosphere. The main altar that divides it into two parts is a backdrop of carved and gold leafed wood by Stefano Fabbrucci. In the altar on the right is a portrayal of The Immaculate Conception by Commodi, while on the left is a painting representing the Deposition of the Body of Christ by Piero Berrettini.

The housing of the religious communities outside the city walls

The following are places which are rich in historical interest outside the walls and in the outskirts of the city:

“LE CELLE” FRANCISCAN HERMITAGE (13th century) During the course of his evangelical pilgrimages, Francis of Assisi came to Cortona in 1211. His charismatic preaching attracted a small community made up of Guido of Porta Colonia, Vito and, according to Wadding (an 18th century researcher of the Franciscans), Brother Elias and others. The community settled in this area and has been called ever since "le Celle". Along the inlets in the mountain there had been small homesteads and hermitages or peasants dwellings and a small church dating back to the Longobard invasions, dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel. The community of Le Celle was visited on numerous occasions by Saint Francis during the course of his life and his pilgrimages. His last stay at the monastery was in the summer of 1226, a few days before his death. At the time he was in company of Brother Elias, who had brought him for treatments in Siena and then to this place of peace and rest. After Francis’ death in Assisi on October 4, 1226, Elias retired in Cortona in 1239 and finished the church of San Francesco which he had projected and built. He united the Franciscan community in the monastery constructed next to the church, but didn't forget Le Celle, where Francis gathered the first brothers, where Guido and Vito had lived and prayed. Legend has it that even Saint Anthony of Padua visited the place.

Le Celle Hermitage: the Church Elias brought about extensive restoration to this hermitage of peace and insured it as property of the Franciscan community. After Brother Elias’ death, which took place in Cortona in 1253, and the complicated ups and downs of the Franciscan Order, a community of "Spirituals" also called "Little Brothers" took over the hermitage. They were expelled in 1363 after being excommunicated by Pope John XXII. Le Celle then fell into a period of abandon and ruin, which came to an end in 1537 when Bishop Bonafede turned the property over to the Capuchins, one of the three branches into which the Franciscans had been divided and approved in 1528. The Capuchins kept a constant respect for the original environment and widely enlarged the monastery. In 1634 they constructed a new church to replace the demolished church of Saint Michael the Archangel. The church was dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua and shows the humble and simple style of Capuchin churches with wooden altars lacking in precious art objects. The "Fosso dei Cappuccini" in front of the monastery is crossed by three bridges, the oldest of which is the one in the middle. This bridge is called the Barberini bridge because it was built between 1594 and 1596 by the Capuchin novice Antonio Barberini. This Capuchin brother is an interesting figure, since he was a student at Le Celle and Pope Urban VIII’s brother, who made him a cardinal in 1624. The profound love for power, wealth and prestige characterized nearly all the members of the Barberini family and in particular, a nephew called Antonino. He was also named cardinal and commissioned the paintings of the palace on Via Quattro Fontane in Rome by Pietro da Cortona. They had such an ascetic temperament that they wanted to be buried in Rome in the church of the Capuchins where they are remembered with a single anonymous inscription "Hic iacet pulvis cinis et nihil" - There is nothing here but dust and ash. The down river bridge is called the Grand Duke's Bridge since it was constructed by the Grand Duke Giangastone Medici in 1728.

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