"In the footsteps of San Francesco" Top 5 Page for this destination Gubbio Things to Do Tip by Trekki
Gubbio Things to Do: 47 reviews and 171 photos
Almost everyone connects the famous saint San Francesco (St. Francis) to Assisi. Busses carry thousands of visitors and pilgrims every month to Assisi to see the famous basilica, the frescoes, his tomb, the town. But outside of Italy not many people know that not only Assisi but also Gubbio was a station in the saint’s life. Legend says that when San Francesco abandoned his former life as the son of a rich textile merchant and was thrown out of Assisi by his father, he went to Gubbio and received shelter and refuge by Spadalonga family, also textile merchants. It is said that the family gave him the brown habit, to date the characteristic dress of San Francesco monks. Spadalonga family lived where later, in 14th century, the basilica San Francesco was built: at Piazza Quaranta Martiri. Parts of their former house had been integrated into the church’s sacristy. A little relief (see photo) on the door to the sacristy is now showing this handing over of the habit.
But it was not only receiving the habit what made San Francesco’s life in Gubbio famous for the Italians and especially the Eugubini. It was also the wolf whom the saint has tamed. Legend has it that once after a bad farming year, a ferocious she-wolf frightened the locals. The wolf killed farm animals and also some people. San Francesco went into the woods, found the animal, talked to her and convinced her that it would be better to live in peace with the locals instead of frightening them to death. The end of the story was that the wolf accepted to be friendly from now on and the locals fed her and were no longer afraid of her. There are many interpretations about this wolf taming. Some say that it symbolised the winning of friendliness over sin, ferocity and avidity, some say it was a man who was possessed by the devil and others say that it was a prostitute (the word lupa at the little church of SM Vittorina might lead to this). But then in 19th century, when parts of the houses near the little church San Francesco della Pace (Chiesa dei Muratori) were renovated, the people found a skeleton of a wolf, buried under a stone. The stone is part of the altar in this church now.
Famous Italian singer Angelo Branduardi has composed a marvellous CD in 2000, called L’Infinitamente Piccolo (The infinitesimally small). It is about San Francesco’s life. One of his songs is about Il Lupo de Gubbio in 2000. The lyrics are as follows:
Francesco a quel tempo in Gubbio viveva
e sulle vie del contado
apparve un lupo feroce
che uomini e bestie straziava
e di affrontarlo nessuno più ardiva
Di quella gente Francesco ebbe pena,
della loro umana paura,
prese il cammino cercando
il luogo dove il lupo viveva
ed arma con sé lui non portava.
Quando alla fine il lupo trovò
Quello incontro si fece, minaccioso,
Francesco lo fermò e levando la mano:
"Tu Frate Lupo, sei ladro e assassino,
su questa terra portasti paura.
Fra te e questa gente io metterò pace,
il male sarà perdonato
da loro per sempre avrai cibo
e mai più nella vita avrai fame
che più del lupo fa l'Inferno paura"
Raccontano che coì Francesco parlò
e su quella terra mise pace
e negli anni a venire del lupo
più nessuno patì.
"Tu Frate Lupo, sei ladro e assassino
ma più del lupo fa l'Inferno paura".
© Ingrid D., December 2010 (just in case, RickS or others come along and think they can steal texts).
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