10-4-1927: Return of the Sacro Convento to the Order

A message from the Assistant General (CFF) of our Order, Friar Jude Winkler, OFM Conv. to the USA Provinces: Our Lady of the Angels Province, St. Bonaventure Province, Our Lady of Consolation Province, and Saint Joseph of Cupertino Province.
Friar Felice Autieri, OFM Conv., a friar from the Northern Province of Italy,
sent me this article concerning a memorial stone in the Sacro Convento
that thanks the US provinces for their financial assistance
in the return of the Sacro Convento to the Order.

The English translation of the memorial stone is: With the favor of the Most High God, With the assistance of Our Seraphic Father Francis, His most Holy Most High Pontiff Pius XI, the Most Eminent Cardinal Raffaele Merry del Val, the Protector of the Order, The Most Reverend Alfonso Orlini, the Minister General of the Friars Minor Conventual, and the Reverend Alessandro Antonelli, the Custos of the Sacro Convento, after a lengthy and painfully difficult time, Thanks to the benefactors of the Provinces of the Order of the Friars Minor Conventual, In particular those of North America for the offering that they fortunately gave, This Sacro Convento of St. Francis in Assisi, built by order of Gregory IX by Friar Elias, erected seven hundred years ago to be the house for the sons of St. Francis, After seventy-two years of miserable theft was restored to their predecessors and by the same Minister General has been established as the primary site of the Missionary Collegio of the Order.  October 4th, in the year of the Lord 1927.  In the Solemnity of the seven hundredth year from the death of the Seraphic Father, this large monument joyfully fulfilling a vow made.

The Provinces of the United States & the Return of the Sacro Convento to the Order
Running along the corridor that leads to the refectory of the friary, on the left one sees a large memorial stone dating to October 4, 1927.  This Latin inscription speaks of the important role that the provinces of the United States played in the return of the Sacro Convento to the Order.  A decree by the Italian government dated July 7, 1866, came into effect on February 4, 1867, expelling the friars from the Sacro Convento.  The friars fought this decree with the government officials, asking that the complex be returned to the Order.  Unfortunately, their request was rejected on June 3, 1867 with the decision that their proposal was not sufficiently supported.
In the meantime, the city of Assisi used the building to establish a collegio named for the Prince of Naples for the children of teachers.  It was opened October 4, 1875.  The following year, the technical and gymnasium schools were also transferred there.  In 1878, the school of pedagogy with its internship for student masters was also put there.  Finally, in 1894, the technical institute for accountants was also placed there.  In spite of this, the friars did not give up the battle, continuing their court case, basing it upon the fact that the Sacro Convento and its Basilica were propriety of the Holy See and not the Order.  The friars were only administering the facility.  The friars won the case, but the tribunal established that the collegio and the other schools would remain in the structure until the Order paid for the construction of a new site for them in Assisi.  Construction was initiated in the Piazza Mattertti of the building today called the Convitto.  The conclusion of the project was established as August 31, 1927, at the cost of 4,700,000 lire (worth about $4,650,000 today).
Besides the money provided by the Order, there was also a collection among the provinces and their benefactors.  On October 4, 1927, the Conventual Friars officially reacquired possession of the building.  The memorial stone mentioned above was placed to thank the American Provinces of the Order for their fundamental economic role in the construction of the school and the consequent return of the Sacro Convento.

Basilica Papale e Sacro Convento di San Francesco (Papal Basilica & Sacred Convent of St. Francis)

In response, a reflection on the stone by our Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv.:
Many, many times I have stood in front of that memorial stone in the loggia of the Sacro Convento, and reflected on the role that our North American provinces played in the restoration of the Sacro Convento to the Order.  This is the best historical reflection on the subject that I have read in English.  It is a valuable bit of Franciscan history of which our North American friars can be justifiably and humbly proud. Thank you for sending it to everyone.

Italian History Timeline

Read more on the Basilica Papale e Sacro Convento di San Francesco website

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