Umbria is a land steeped in mystery and legend and a particularly evocative and chilling one is undoubtedly the legend of the friar ghosts of Subasio.
This ancient story has only been passed down thanks to a handful of farmers and through its narration in a number of books dedicated to Umbria and its traditions. It is set right on the famous mountain of the Umbria-Marche Apennines, in a monastery near Assisi. A monastery which has since been destroyed without a trace. Not much more is known about where or when these events occurred.
Creating the setting for the events narrated by this legend is the Umbrian rural tradition and the typical religious devotion of the past rural population.
It would seem, in fact, that the God-fearing community residing near the castle was particularly diligent in organising processions, vigils and other occasions of prayer in every season of the year as well as for many other reasons: to ask for minor pardons, as thanks for what they had received or to celebrate occasions as well as particular events and occurrences.
It would seem, however, that this zeal did not sit well with the friars living in the monastery, and they were actually annoyed with the “extra work” it created for them. And not only that, but when they shed their habit it seems that these friars were interested in anything but prayer and spirituality: while protecting the appearance of chastity and observance of the rules of Christian life, they actually engaged in degenerate and sinful conduct.
Indeed, legend has it that an extraordinary event – either a calamity or an epidemic – hit them one day, putting an end to the sacrilegious life of the monastery: not a single friar survived and even the building was destroyed.
Soon after, however, something both mysterious and disturbing began to happen in the surrounding area: people were often seen in the distance, walking in a line holding candles and voices were often heard, praying and chanting.
The local population strongly believed these were ghosts, or rather the ghosts of those corrupt friars, condemned to paying for their sins by having to perform all of those religious ceremonies that they had not engaged in during their lives, for all eternity.
Some say that today, every now and then, on the peaks of Mount Subasio, it is still possible to see black shadows walking slowly, bearing candles.