Portiuncula, the Indulgence of
Portiuncula, the Indulgence of In the vicinity of Assisi there stood a little church Nostra Signora degli Angeli, called also Portimncula, which St. Francis, after his conversion, repaired, and soon afterwards received as a present for himself and his congregation, at the hands of the benedictine abbot of the Monastery of Monte-Subazio. A legend widely spread in the 14th century says that in this little church, the cradle of the Franciscan Order, Christ himself granted to the saint his prayer for plenary indulgence for all those who, after partaking worthily of the sacraments of penance and of the altar, should visit Portiuncula. Christ made it a condition of his absolution that the consent of him to whom he had committed the power of binding and unbinding should also be obtained. Honorius III, who was then at Perugia, was willing to grant one or a few years, but demurred at the request of a plenary indulgence, inasmuch as the practice of the Roman see did not warrant such a thing. But as soon as the pope was informed that the saint was speaking in the Savior's own name, he thrice exclaimed, "Thy will be done 1 The cardinals did not approve of the pope's decision, as this indulgence, which could be gained so easily, would put a check to the ultramontane pilgrimages and to the crusades, the only means by which, up to that time, a plenary indulgence could be obtained. Honorius, being made sensible of these dangers, compromised matters by making it a condition of the obtention of plenary indulgence that the visit to Portiuncula be made from the evening of August 1st to the evening of the 2nd, At this decision of the pope Francis bowed his head in humility, and was about to leave the room, when the pope called him back, saying, "Foolish man, whither art thou going? what security hast thou for that which has just been granted to thee?" Whereupon the saint replied, "Your word, holy father, is enough for me. Let Jesus Christ be the notary, the Virgin Mary the deed, and the angels the witnesses; I need no other document." Some writers deem it a most doubtful matter that pope Honorius, contrary to the pontifical practice, which was not to grant indulgences for more than a few years, should have so liberally dealt with St. Francis, especially as no bull to that effect can be shown. But the testimonies of the 13th and 14th centuries in corroboration of the historical nucleus of the legend are too numerous to allow of any doubt. The Portiuncular indulgence was, besides, acknowledged not only by the popes of the 14th, but also by those of the 13th century; for instance, Alexander IV (1254-61) and others. Pope Innocent XII, in 1695, extended the indulgence to all days of the year. Besides, inasmuch as many Roman Catholics could not afford to visit Portiuncula, the popes extended said indulgence (obtainable from the 1st to the 2nd of Aug.) to all the churches of the Franciscans and Capuchins. In our time the Portiunciular indulgence can be obtained in some countries on the first Sunday of August, not only in the Franciscan, but in all churches where Catholic worship is held regularly on Sundays and holidays.