St. Francis’ Roman cell to be restored

Ah, crowd funding, where you can financially support everything from a watch that tells you the time — literally! — to Spike Lee’s latest film project.

There are several websites that let you help the struggling (or not-so-struggling) artist or tech inventor, but Kickstarter ( is the biggest, with nearly 60,000 successfully funded projects and more than $1 billion pledged, of which more than $130,000 will be going to a community of Franciscan friars to help them restore an 800-year-old cell where St. Francis of Assisi frequently stayed when he visited Rome.

St. Francis, who inspired our current pope to take his name, was born in the 12th century. The beloved saint dedicated his life to working with the poor, even giving up his own material wealth. He is the first recorded stigmatic in Church history and founded the Franciscan order of monks.

St. Francis’ first contact with the tiny and dark room in the Church of St. Francis at Ripa came in 1209, according to the campaign page on Kickstarter. He came to meet Pope Innocent III and was given a place to stay at the monastery and hospital run by the Benedictine monks. He was so fond of the place he stayed in the tiny room several times during his visits to Rome.Now, the room is in shambles, its stone walls crumbling. There is a wooden altar made in the 17th century that still stands, with a portrait of St. Francis displayed in the middle.

Wanting government money to go toward social services, the Franciscans who now run the church turned to Kickstarter, where they set a goal of $125,000. They surpassed that total by $5,000, thanks to the donations of 1,117 backers. The money will help pay to restore the walls, wooden ceiling, floor and decorations in the cell. It will also help pay for restoration work on the stone pillow upon which St. Francis laid his head to rest.According to Kickstarter, the restoration of the cell will last for five months and be completed at the end of September. The Franciscans plan to officially open the renovated room Oct. 4.

Scott Warden is the associate editor of OSV Newsweekly.