ROME — A community of Franciscan friars are “taking it to the streets,” appealing to the general public — and not strapped government coffers — to finance the restoration of a darkened cell where St. Francis of Assisi stayed during his visits to Rome.
The Franciscans in charge of Rome’s Church of St. Francis at Ripa have turned to the Kickstarter “crowd-funding” platform in the hopes of raising $125,000 in 40 days. As of this writing, they had just $7,800 pledged with only 24 days left for the campaign.
The friars turned to Kickstarter, they said, because they wanted it to be a grassroots effort so “the highest number of people around the world” could join their efforts and have a stake in the restoration project.
Also, given today’s severe economic crisis, the friars didn’t want to ask for funding from the government, which is facing a continued budget crisis, and whose resources, they said, should be dedicated to urgent and basic public assistance.
All donors will have their names inscribed on panels near the entrance of the restored cell as well as receive a certificate that’s “suitable for framing.”
Depending on the amount pledged, donors receive an additional gift, such as a wooden Tau key chain, a St. Francis mousepad, T-shirt or mug, or a DVD of the Franco Zeffirelli film, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.”
Larger contributions can get you four-star hotel accommodations in Rome and a private tour of the restored cell.
St. Francis first stayed in the tiny room when he came to Rome in 1209 to meet Pope Innocent III to get official approval for the Franciscan order.
He stayed in the same cell on several occasions, using — for a pillow — a slab of stone, which can still be seen by visitors.
The Franciscans hope the room, with its soot-covered walls, rotting wooden ceiling, scuffed floors and flaking frescoes, can be restored in time for this year’s Oct. 4 feast day of St. Francis. His namesake, Pope Francis, has been invited to the restoration’s unveiling that same day, they said.