Calabria’s Patron Saint

February 20, 2013 / Places
The Church of San Francesco di Paola from the Palazzo Reale in Naples
The Church of San Francesco di Paola from the Palazzo Reale

While strolling through the huge Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples, the Church of San Francesco di Paola with its grand colonnades is one of the city’s most eye-catching sites. It was built in the early 19th century and dedicated to Saint Francis of Paola by Bourbon King Ferdinand I.

Right there, surrounded by the history of Naples and so much of southern Italy, I was transported back to the little village of Paola in Calabria’s province of Cosenza. Paola is known as the birthplace of Saint Francis, who is the patron saint of Calabria. (As well as mariners, boatmen and naval officers, in case you were curious!)

Francis was born in a religious family in Paola, and was tied to Saint Francis of Assisi from his birth. Tradition says that his parents prayed to Saint Francis of Assisi to help them have a child. When Francis was born with an eye infliction, they once again prayed to the saint. After a full recovery and a vision of a Franciscan Monk when he was 13, Francis went off to the monastery.

Frescoes in the Sanctuary of Saint Francis of Paola in Calabria
Frescoes in the Sanctuary of St. Francis of Paola

When he returned to Calabria, Francis created an order of Hermit Monks and dedicated his life to poverty. A sanctuary to Saint Francis of Paola sits in the hills above the village. If your travels bring you south to Paola, you can visit Devil’s Bridge (one of the many miracles of Saint Francis), a historic chapel, a modern church, a garden area with beautifully intact frescoes and Saint Francis’ cave.

Cherrye Moore

by Cherrye Moore

Cherrye Moore is owner of My Bella Vita Travel, a boutique tour operator specializing in custom vacations and heritage tours in southern Italy. Join her in June or September for the Small Group Heritage Tour of Calabria – a unique small group tour that combines group travel with a private heritage tour, or in September for the Undiscovered Southern Calabria and Eastern Sicily Tour.


10 Responses to “Calabria’s Patron Saint”

  1. Colleen Simpson

    Really appreciated your Note. I did not realize that there was another St. Francis! We have never explored Calabria, but plan to drive down from our home in Umbria in March. Now I really want to visit Paola. Grazie mille for the informative and engaging Note Cherrye!

  2. Colleen,
    Another lovely story, when one visits the many churches, it’s so much more meaningful to know the stories of the lives of those portrayed in the frescoes and artwork.I always wondered how there were more than one St. Francis! Grazie, Victoria

  3. OOPS, sorry Cherrye! I meant to address my note to you, of course! Haven’t had my 2nd cup of coffee yet! Victoria

  4. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    I keep wanting to visit some of these wonderful sites brought alive in Italian notebook and must promise myself to do it. I tend to get “stuck in” my own little patch of Tuscany when I am in Italy and realize when I read such an intriguing post like this one that I must get unstuck and get exploring! thank you Cherrye!

  5. Lovely to hear about the less known corners of Italy. Many thanks. Tell us more about that Devil’s Bridge!

  6. Tony Provenzano

    Hi, I had the pleasure of visiting in Calabria this gorgeous site while visiting my first cousin in neighboring Serra d’Aiello/Cleto in this part of the peninsula. Life time memories guranteed.

  7. Mary Caye Mauro Bixler

    Had the opportunity to see the monestery in Paola last fall while visiting with relatives (us meeting for the first time!)in Colabria.
    Worth the time and effort in walking to see it all. Just wonderful! Yes, indeed, lifetime memories of all of it!!!
    so grateful to have been there.

  8. Thank you for all of the comments. Calabrians love “our” Saint Francis and I’m happy you guys are intrigued, as well. They call him “the old man,” and will nod to his picture and say “the old man’s gonna get angry at you for that.” :-) I love it!

  9. So looking forward to my upcoming adventure in Calabria organized by Cherrye Moore. Have always wanted to visit Paola and say a prayer to St. Francis in his chapel. My Dad was a World War Two Naval Officer and I will be visiting the birthplace of his fathre on this trip. What a wonderful coincidence. I did not know that St. Francis was the patron of Naval Officers.

    Thanks for this info, Cherrye.

  10. Ciao Marianne. We are so looking forward to your trip! I love the Monastery of Saint Francis and always take my family and friends there when they visit. I can’t believe your trip is finally almost here. :-)


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