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The Saint Francis Convent of Pino

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Posted on 05/06/2024 | Updated 2 weeks ago
San Francescu

500 Years of History of the Convent Saint-François (San Francescu)

In 1486, the decision was made in Rome by Pope Innocent VIII to build the Convent Saint-François in Pino, which came to fruition in 1495, preceding the construction of the Scalu tower by a century.

An Observantine convent that could accommodate up to fifty Brothers, it later became a Franciscan convent. It also served as a refuge for the population during raids.

An Order Threatened by the Revolution, but Supported by the Corsicans

In 1792, after the French Revolution, the anti-clerical policy ordered, among other things, the suppression of religious orders. In Pino, the inhabitants defended the Brothers, sheltering them in their homes until things calmed down, allowing them to eventually return to the Convent. Nearly 30 years later, still outlawed and under the threat of revolutionaries, the Corsicans in the region mobilized in 1818 with a petition calling for the restoration of the religious order. It was signed by 158 people, including members of the clergy (priests) and civil society, notably the Mayor of Pino, the mayors of Cap Corse, and justices of the peace. This action was rejected by the government. The last Franciscan died in 1835.

It was under the impetus of the revival of the Dominican Order in France, initiated by Henri-Dominique Lacordaire - a Catholic cleric who entered the orders in 1840 - that the notaries, the mayor, and the parish priest of Pino brought the matter back to the table. At their request, an Italian brother (Syrus of Vicopelago) came to preach Lent in 1854 before being appointed guardian of the Convent by Father Anselme Martinelli, a priest from Tuscany, to restore the order of Saint Francis on the island.

The convent reopens in Pino as well as elsewhere in Corsica, notably in Niolu and Alesani. This respite would last until 1880, when a new threat of expulsion arose. Once again, the mobilization in Pino re-emerged through a petition by notable figures against the closure of the convent. This action bore fruit and allowed the convent to operate until the next governmental offensive.

In 1903, two years before the law of separation of Church and State, when the religious community consisted of about ten members, including the future auxiliary bishop of Ajaccio (Augustin Giustiniani), the anticongregational laws (1901-1904) led to the expulsion of the Franciscans and other French religious figures. Cast into exile, some found refuge in Italy.

It would not be until 1938 that the Convent would resume its operations. Its guardian, Pierre-Baptiste Polverelli, was well acquainted with the place, having studied theology there in 1902.

From Convent to Seraphic College

After centuries of offensives by the post-revolutionary regime against the religious order, it was ultimately the advent of a new world, less religious and more materialistic, that triggered a crisis of vocations and, more generally, of spirituality.

In this well-understood context, the Brothers of the island decided in 1951 to open a seraphic college in what was now the former Convent of Pino.

The establishment remained a religious institution but became a small seminary intended to train priests or brothers within the Franciscan order. The seraphic college would host up to 30 students in 1955.

This latter functioned until 1972, since which time the Convent has remained unchanged and is gradually deteriorating, at the mercy of particularly harsh climatic conditions, including the salt from sea winds, humidity, and summer heat.

The U Cunventu Association

Not entirely abandoned, the desire to preserve the Convent of Pino is currently supported by U Cunventu, an association established on August 3, 2004, aimed at promoting the heritage of the village as a whole, of which the Convent represents a significant part.

In the Heritage Lottery

In 2018, the cameras of France 3 focused on the convent during Stéphane Bern's program, The Heritage Lottery. The funds raised for all selected sites enabled the launch of an entire restoration project. Additionally, a crowdfunding operation raised the sum of 120,000 euros, earning the second prize for patronage from the Heritage Foundation.

Details of the restoration work:

  • North section: framework and decking: €200,000
  • North section: framework and decking: €200,000
  • West section: annex roofs: €300,000
  • Final part of the roofing work: €90,000

The Convent Saint François in Video - Olmu Production

Watch the report by Olmu Production on the Convent Saint-François of Pino.