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San Francesco del Deserto: an island where peace and silence reign.

When St. Francis came back from the fifth crusade in the 1220s it is said that he stopped to pray on one of the Venetian lagoon islands. Immediately after he left the island was called Saint Francis after his name a group of Franciscan fathers settled there to continue his religious practice. Hundreds of years later because of malaria the island was abandoned for a while and for this reason the word Desert was applied to it.

The architectonic complex of Saint Francis, the pathway leading to the church

The island is considered a place for meditation and prayers as it is surrounded by a lot of vegetation and cypresses, typical trees of the lagoon islands and of the Mediterranean evergreen plants. A pathway with pebbles leads to the old convent, where a few friars still live today.

The church

The island was originally owned by a Venetian nobleman, Jacopo Michiel, who donated it to the friars. In 1228 a church was added to the oratory where St. Francis prayed. On its facade there is the representation of the saint in a small niche. The whole architectonic complex was built according to the Franciscan standards of respecting simplicity, so its inner and outer parts remain very plain.

Part of the garden surrounding the island

Following St Francis precepts the Franciscan friars found God in all the creatures and identified with them as brothers and sisters. Famous are his Canticle of the creatures and his Canticle of the Sun underlying the relationship between humankind and the creation.

One of his canticles is represented on the iron structure you see in the above picture. The hymn was dedicated to the birds who greeted him on his arrival on the island.

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