Reflection by: Cordelia

Chronicles of a pilgrim – Day 4 – Rome


Ever dreamt of stepping into the enchanting realm Narnia? Well, it’s right here in the heart of Italy, and it goes by the name of Narni! Where its charm and beauty of entrancing landscapes and Mediaeval wonders left C.S. Lewis spellbound, inspiring ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’. 

Embarking on a 2-hour journey from Rome, we reached the geographic centre of Italy, Narni in Umbria. Here, atop the serene landscape, lies the ‘Sacro Speco’—the Sacred Cave of St Francis. In 1213, St Francis, accompanied by his brethren, arrived at the Hermitage of Sant’Urbano, crafted by Benedictines. Seeking solace, he frequented a cave (“speco”) where hermits once sought refuge, engaging in solitary prayer and meditation.

Upon reaching Sacro Speco, a resident friar graciously unfolded the rich history of the site. Motivated by a desire to emulate Jesus’s path, Franciscans deliberately sought natural grottos in mountainous locales. For St. Francis, this place held profound significance; the cave’s opening, reminiscent of Jesus’s wounds on the cross, became a poignant symbol. Stepping into the Speco, he sensed an intimate connection, as if entering the very heart of Jesus. In this sacred space, St. Francis discovered a profound and lasting closeness.

In 1213, as St. Francis arrived, he sought warmth and requested wine, but none was available. Turning to the well, he tasted the water, transformed into the essence of wine—a profound sign, a connection to Jesus. Below lies the well, a testament to the miraculous encounter and the beauty of spiritual resonance.

This 17th-century painting captures the transformative moment when St. Francis, seeking wine, heard the celestial strains of an angel’s viola, turning water into a sacred embodiment of wine. A timeless portrayal of divine grace, resonating with the beauty of faith and miracles.

Ascending, we reached a sacred cell where St. Francis once rested in the throes of illness. The preserved bed whispers of his resilience, echoing the profound beauty found in moments of vulnerability.

Across the meadow stands a century-old chestnut tree, said to bloom from the very moment St Francis planted his staff before departing—a living testament to the enduring resonance of his touch.

Being at the Sacro Speco has strengthened my faith, I felt a sense of calmness and assurance, a form of connection and alluring longing. 

Our next destination holds the prestigious title of “Borgho più bello d’Italia” (One of Italy’s Most Beautiful Towns) – Civita in Bagnoregio, affectionately known as ‘The Dying City.’ Accessible only by foot, it generously unveils breathtaking views of the valley, winding streets, and historic charm. Shaped by an earthquake in 1695, Civita’s cliffside separation marked the start of its gradual decline. Being built on a tufa hill using locally sourced volcanic rock, Civita’s fate is inevitable. As the cliff erodes, the town will eventually crumble. We truly are lucky to have been able to visit this beautiful small town, a spectacular and different sight to what we’re used to back home in Singapore and what a way to end the day.