In Italian, Rivotorto means crooked stream. Flowing meekly through the Spoleto Valley – only several kilometers from Assisi – the Rivotorto knows Francis well. After Pope Innocent’s initial approval of Franciscan life in 1209, Francis and his brothers found a small old shed near the stream where they settled for a period of time. No one lived in the shed. Its sad, unassuming state fit the group’s need to live poor, humble lives.
When a local farmer returned to the shed with his donkey (allowing the animal to roam throughout the shed), the Franciscans – with permission from the Benedictines – relocated to the Porziuncola (the Church of St. Mary of the Angels). They had already been attending mass at the Porziuncola for some time.
Today Rivotorto is regarded by many as the “protoconvento”. Here the community took another big step in its development. Plus Francis’ presence at Rivotorto almost immediately made it a place of pilgrimage. By 1250, an altar already stood where the first Franciscans had once lived.
From the altar, over several centuries, a chapel grew. In their 1491 General Chapter, the Franciscans expressed their wish to maintain the Rivotorto chapel as a place of devotion. Today the church at Rivotorto is precisely that. Pilgrims and parishioners now also have the opportunity to see reconstructions inside the church of the shed that Francis and his followers once called home.