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In Perugia the plot only thickens. In 1202, at the age of 20, Francis joins others in an elite cavalry to defend the interests of Asissi in battle against the neighboring Perugians. Struck down in battle at Collestrada, his armor signals his potential value to his captors, who take him back to Perugia and hold him for ransom. Francis spends about a year there as a prisoner of war.

We follow him to Perugia, where we go first to the National Gallery of Umbrian Art to behold the images of Christ, Mary and the saints that stud its walls. Quietly we take in the beauty of intimacy between mother and child, the reality of the living God sacralizing the human story.

Sated, we descend the escalators and walk silently through the medieval maze below the modern city, where it is easy to imagine Francis’ year of imprisonment. The contrast of luxury and light up above to the dank darkness down below could hardly be more stark. We remember all those still trapped in spaces of darkness, violence, injustice, and distress and head back to Assisi for long conversation.


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About the author
Gillian Ahlgren
Dr. Ahlgren has been teaching the Christian mystical tradition to college-age students, graduate students, and adult learners for over 26 years. She is an internationally-recognized scholar of the tradition, an experienced spiritual director, and engages a regular practice of contemplative prayer. A popular teacher, public speaker and writer, she also gives several retreats per year. She is the Founding Director of Xavier University’s Institute for Spirituality and Social Justice.
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