The Singing Friar of Assisi

March 20, 2015 / Local Interest
Assisi, Umbria

You’d probably re-think “re-incarnation” if you ever met Frate Alessandro, Assisi’s “singing friar.”

Short (St. Francis was about 5’4”) with close-cropped brown hair, brilliant brown eyes, a joyful grin and a ready laugh, a bouncy step (the only element that might not jibe with the Saint – but who knows?), Fra’ Alessandro, Assisi’s “singing friar,” fits my image of his order’s founder, our San Francesco.

Song with full passion

A friend and I chatted with him one morning at the Assisi train station. Gullbritt was heading home to Sweden, he was on his way to a Naples concert.

3 of us

I’d first heard Fra Alessandro at a benefit concert in Assisi – performing with guitarist Fra’ Davide and violinist, Fra’ Marco – captivating his audience with his magnetism as well as his music.

3 joyous friar musicians
Putting in the passion
With fans
Fra Alessandro's winning smile

Signed by Decca Records, young Frate Alessandro has hit the international music scene. He started studying voice while in his Perugia high school: “I was studying composition and organ but the voice teacher needed to fill her class so she roped me in, telling me, ‘join us, I ‘m sure you have a good voice.’ She was wrong. I had no voice.” He does now.

I asked him what singing was for him: he replied without hesitation, “the sound of the voice of God who created the world with his own Word.” He added, “Singing is a passionate connection with Him for me – even when doing scales! I’m in another dimension and I hope all listening are there with me.”  

And his religious vocation? “I was sixteen – but I tried to avoid it. I just wanted to enjoy life like anyone my age.” (Could be the words of a wealthy Assisi merchant’s son, early 13th-century…)

But the tug wouldn’t let go. At nineteen, he headed to Assisi for counseling with a Franciscan at the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli, the 16th century church built over the site where San Francesco died, October 3, 1226.

Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli

His spiritual guide counseled patient reflection, telling the young man, “if your decision comes out in a burst like an explosive, it won’t last. A vocation must grow slowly.” Two years later, Frate Alessandro entered the Franciscan order as a postulant at the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli.

He knew what he wanted.

He’s on the road a lot performing. At his wish (and with approval of his superior), his concert fees go to the poor and needy in Franciscan missions, underscoring what Fra’ Alessandro said as we chatted: “Music, voice and singing connect all of us together.”

(And some links to youtube videos of Fra’ Alessandro.. here, here, and here.)


Song as praise for this friar
Singing is prayer for Fra Alessandro

Humble acknowledgement of the applause

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

17 Responses to “The Singing Friar of Assisi”

  1. Maryanne Maggio Hanisch

    Those of us who grew up in Franciscan parishes know how privileged we are to have the spiritual descendants of St. Francis among us. This is a special young man! Thank you for your notes about Assisi, Anne.

  2. Jane Ellis

    I love this entry and hope to meet him next time we come to Assisi.
    Jane Ellis

  3. Janet Eidem

    Lovely Annie! I hope he gives a concert in Assisi in April or May when we plan to be “home.”

  4. Janice Peters

    What a cool story. You are officially part of his fame!
    Janice Peters

  5. Katie Larsh

    Wonderful story, Annie. Thank you for another item to add to our future travel plans!

  6. Lynn Cowhig

    He sounds delightful, would love to enjoy an evening in Umbria, or anywhere in Italy with the Friar. Hopefully will hear a recording soon. Thanks again Anne, another reason to dream of returning soon! Your last picture really seems to capture his personality. What a delight he must be!!

  7. Susan Senise

    Each time I read a particularly fun, interesting or engaging piece on Italian Notebook I check to see who wrote it. It is always Anne Robichaud! Anne’s topics are so interesting, they make me want to run off to Italy again! After reading one of her articles, we went to Italy and hired her for a tour in Umbria…it was delightful. She also took us to lunch at her friend Giuseppa’s farm…pure heaven! Thanks, Annie!

  8. Paulette Carnicelli Pidcock

    Thanks Anne – great story. I have a special place in my heart for Franciscans…since my cousin Padre Marco (Basilica di San Bernadino – L’Aquila) – is a Friar. I love the music. Paulette

  9. Beatific and beautiful – thanks Anne for bringing the light of this young man to our attention. Such a passion and talent is wonderful to know of. Thank you for sharing this.

  10. marianna raccuglia

    Happy Easter, Anne, Pino and family. A wonderful and heartwarming article.

  11. Louise Montalbanoaaa

    Thank you, Anne, for bringing Frate Alessandro to those of us who did not know of him. Your gift for writing and introducing us to people, places and things, makes us feel like we are almost there amongst them. Hearing Frate Alessandro
    for the first time through your writing was a special gift to me. And to hear his special gift with his wonderful smile,
    shared with the world is wonderful. I hope to hear him in
    person someday soon.

  12. Julie Wilkinson - NZ

    What more can be said, Alessandro, what an amazing voice he has. I then have listened to several others on u tube – I got goosebumps! Seeing the video in his environment very subdued calming effect. I hope god lets him share his voice with all of us.

  13. Gull-Britt Lundsröm

    I remember this Anne! I played his cd during christmas.Lovely music, so thank
    you Anne for yet another interesting event with you!!

  14. Dolores Nann

    Hi Anne, I’m assisting Fr Greg on our upcoming trip in October to Assisi and are looking forward to your tour. my good friends , Joe and Bev Ryan as you know highly recommended you! Any chance the singing friar is performing during our time there? Dee Nann


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