Monks launch St Francis of Assisi Kickstarter campaign

St Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy, by Jusepe de Ribera (1642)

They are perhaps better known for alms bowls, but a group of Franciscan monks have turned to the internet to raise money in the hopes of restoring an old cell supposedly once the sleeping place of St Francis of Assisi.

The 12th century Italian saint, after whom Pope Francis has chosen to be named, was renowned for his passionate defence of the poor and vulnerable, as well as his desire to promote humility and compassion.

According to oral tradition, he apparently stayed in a small room in the church of San Francesco a Ripa in the Trastevere district of Rome at least four times between 1209 and 1223, although there are no written records to confirm this.

A number of his followers have therefore decided to raise enough money through Kickstarter to restore the cell, which now acts as a chapel dedicated to St Francis complete with wooden altar.

"We need $125,000 to restore the cell of St Francis," explains Brother Stefano Tamburo of the monastery.

"The saint slept sitting on the ground, directly in contact with a large stone that is still visible today and which he used as a sort of cushion."

Campaigners hope that the restored cell will be made open to the public for free, and are planning to install modern technology such as an air conditioning system and overhead projectors. If they are able to raise sufficient funds, the updated room will be opened in October of this year.

They are well on their way to meeting their goal, as the campaign currently has pledges amounting to almost $35,000, with 10 days still to go.

'Rewards' have been offered to those who choose to donate.  A $10 pledge will get you a photo of the restored room, while for a more generous donation of $5,000 you can expect a four-night stay in a four star hotel in Rome, as well as a private tour of the city.

Explaining the decision not to appeal to the Vatican for money, Brother Stefano says they would rather the Church concern itself with caring for the needy.

"With the economic crisis, the priority is for spending on social issues," he contends.

"For restoring the cell, we prefer to ask people who can afford it."

For more details of the campaign, click here.

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