Fumone and its castle are intimately linked to the figure of Pope Celestino V, one of the most emblematic figures of the Catholic Church still wrapped in a particular charm. This is where the saint spent his last years in a cell. In 2018 his death is remembered with a solemn procession on 19 May.
Pietro Angelerio da Morrone, was born in Molise in 1215, and as a young man he showed an extraordinary predisposition to asceticism and solitude. He retired into a solitary hermitage in a small cave in Mount Morrone, near Sulmona, from where he then took his name.
He developed a strong following and with his followers he founded the Congregation of the Brothers of the Holy Spirit. His fame disturbed Rome to the extent that they wanted to suppress the order, so Celestino went to Lyon, where the work of the Council of Gregory X was undertaken, to prevent the monastic order from being abolished.
In 1292, at the death of Niccolò IV, the 12 Cardinals of the Conclave could not elect a new pope, especially because of the struggle between the Caetani and Colonna families, each of which was supported by some European monarch.
Cardinals gathered in various parts of Italy but never come to a resolution until King Carlo d’Angiò burst in to the conclave of Perugia and urged a choice. With this pressure and after various vicissitudes, they choose Father Pietro, Angelerio, a pure person, entirely outside political games and unaware of pontifical dynamics.
Pietro caught between surprise and dismay, accepted and the Pope’s election took place in the basilica of Collemaggio in L’Aquila on August 29, 1294. Pietro da Morrone chose the name of Celestino V.
Following the advice of Carlo d’Angiò, Celestino V transferred the seat of the Curia to Naples, but during his frequent meditations, traps and intrigues, the new pope arrived at the decision to abandon his post and on December 13, 1294, reading of his renunciation in a consistory(gathering of cardinals) that seems to have been suggested to him by Cardinal Caetani.
Eleven days later, Pope Benedict Caietani was elected as Boniface VIII. Bonifacio feared disorder and locked up the old monk in the Rock of Fumone, which was then controlled by the Caetani family. The residence became a prison and lasted for 10 months and ended with the death of Celestine V on 19 May 1296 at the age of 81.
According to a tradition, a brilliant cross appeared at the window of the poky jail and in 1313 Celestino V was enrolled in the List of Saints by Clemente V. His body now rests in the basilica of Collemaggio in L’Aquila and is still highly revered.
In his few days of pontificate, Celestino V made a very significant act that can be considered as the emanation of the first formal indulgence. With a Papal Bull, Celestine V emanated forgiveness, a universal act directed to all Christians.
He invited all to reconciliation and set the conditions: to enter truly repented and confessed into the church of Santa Maria di Collemaggio on the day of the recurrence of the reenactment of St. John the Baptist.
It is the first jubilee of universal character to which everyone had access and, above all, did not foresee any other ends except the spiritual ones. A few years later, exactly in 1300, Celestino’s idea was taken up by Boniface VIII with the famous jubilee.
But perhaps both Celestino V and Boniface VIII restated the idea of Innocent III of the ‘Indulgence of the Hundred Years’. In any case, Celestine is increasingly modern and his figure still inspires many writers and poets.