Just a few miles down the hill from Assisi, within the magnificent basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, is the famous Porziuncola, the very small church where St. Francis perceived his vocation in 1209. At the time, of course, only this little chapel, Porziuncola – meaning “little piece of land” – existed.

A side view of the Porziuncola.

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The basilica of Holy Mary of the Angels was built between 1569 and 1679 according to instructions of Pope St. Pius V who wanted the chapel of the Porziuncola, the Rose Garden, and the Chapel of the Passing where Francis died to be available to the faithful under one roof, one magnificent roof, that of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

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August 2 is one of the most important days of the year for the Porziuncola as it commemorates the famous Pardon of Assisi, also known as the Indulgence of Porziuncola that Francis received from Our Lord.

There is a three-day preparatory period of prayer that starts July 29.

But let’s first look back at the history of this miniature church. Legend says that hermits from the Valley of Josaphat in the Holy Land brought relics from the grave of the Blessed Virgin to Pope Liberius in the 4th century who then had this chapel erected to hold those relics. We are also told that this chapel became the property of St. Benedict in 516 and was called Our Lady of the Valley of Josaphat or of the Angels.

The chapel, after time, fell into disuse but eventually Francis restored it, having misunderstood the Lord when He spoke to him from the celebrated Cross of St. Damian and told him to “repair my Church.” Francis soon learned that the Lord meant to repair the Church from within, not physically restore it.

The Porziuncula – external and internal.

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Having prayed and meditated and discovered his vocation here in 1209, St. Francis founded the Friars Minor and eventually obtained the chapel from the Benedictines as a gift to be the center of his new Order.

Here, on March 28, 1211, Clare, the daughter of one Favarone di Offreduccio received the habit of the Poor Clares from Francis, thus instituting that Order.

And now we come to 1216 when St.Francis, in a vision, obtained what is know as the Pardon of Assisi or Indulgence of the Porziuncola (also written Portiuncula), approved by Pope Honorius III. This special day runs from Vespers on August 1 to sundown of August 2.

According to the official Porziuncola website, one night in 1216 Francis was immersed in prayer when suddenly the chapel was filled with a powerful light, and he saw Christ and His Holy Mother above the altar, surrounded by a multitude of angels.

They asked him what he wanted to be able to save souls and Francis’ answer was immediate: “I ask that all those who, having repented and confessed, will come to visit this church will obtain full and generous pardon with a complete remission of guilt.”

The Lord then said to Francis: “What you ask, Brother Francis, is great but you are worthy of greater things and greater things you will have. I thus accept your prayer, but on the understanding that you ask my vicar on earth, in my name, for this indulgence.”

Francis immediately went to Pope Honorius who listened attentively and gave his approval. To the question, “Francis, for how many years do you wish this indulgence?” the saint replied: “Holy Father, I do not ask for years, but for souls.”

And thus, on August 2, 1216, together with the bishops of Umbria, he announced to the people gathered at the Porziuncula: “My brothers, I want to send all of you to Heaven.”

Francis gathered his brother Franciscans here every year in a general chapter to discuss the Rule of the Order, to be renewed in their work and to awaken in themselves a new fervor in bringing the Gospel to the world.

Click here and you will see whatever the current live video is at Santa Maria degli Angeli or the basilica of St. Francis. Commentary and prayers in Italian:–4-1.html