Saint Francis's Beech Tree – Rivodutri, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Saint Francis's Beech Tree

Legend said this huge, gnarled tree sheltered the saint during a storm.  


The Valley of Rieti in Sabina is known as Valle Santa (Holy Valley) for the number of Franciscan monasteries that dot this forested region northeast of Rome. There are several legends associated with the saint, one of which might have left traces that are still visible today. 

In the woods above the small town of Rivodutri, along the Way of Saint Francis, an extraordinary beech tree is said to have assumed its present shape when it sheltered the saint during a storm. This legend explains why, unlike other beech trees, this particular monumental tree has assumed its present “weeping” shape. 

Although the tree is more likely only 250 old—and therefore far too young to have protected the saint in this circumstance—is a rare and extraordinary beech tree with gnarled and twisting branches that give it a fairytale-like shape. Pilgrims who walk the Way of Saint Francis leave offerings at the base of the tree and marvel in its extraordinary shape and size. 

The tree is approximately 26 feet (eight meters) high and its circumference measures about 13 feet (four meters). 

Know Before You Go

The tree can be reached by car from Rivodutri and Cepparo (please note: the last stretch of the road is in poor condition). You can park by the chapel on the side of the road and walk down the trail on the left.

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