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San Francesco del Deserto is a small and peaceful island in the Lagoon of Venice, located between the island of Burano and the island of Sant’Erasmo.
The San Francesco’s island is home of a Franciscan monastery (Minor Friars) founded in 1230. It is surrounded by sandbanks and is wrapped around its perimeter by cypresses and pines.
Anciently the island of San Francesco del Deserto, was called Isola delle Due Vigne and was owned by the Venetian nobleman Jacopo Michiel.
It is said that in 1220 San Francesco d’Assisi stayed there in retreat for a short time, returning from the East and from the Fifth Crusade (not for fighting, but to meet peacefully Malek-el-Kamel, the Sultan of Egypt).
At that time, on the island there was already a small Byzantine church where St. Francis stopped to reflect and pray with Friar Illuminato da Rieti, his traveling companion.
In 1233 Jacopo Michiel donated the island to the Franciscan Order and sice this moment the “Isola delle Due Vigne” was renamed to “Isola di San Francesco”.
Because of diseases and plagues such as malaria, which spread in these swampy areas, in ‘400 the island was abandoned for a brief period: it was on this occasion that the the suffix “del Deserto” (of the Desert) was applied to his name, renaming it in Island of San Francesco del Deserto.
From the ‘400 onwards San Francesco del Deserto has always been administered by the Order of the Franciscans, with the exception of the early nineteenth century (1808) when Napoleon’s troops transformed the island into a warehouse and a tinderbox.
In 1858, through the work of the Padre Bernardino da Portogruaro, the island was given to the Diocese of Venice, which allowed the monks to refound the monastery, even today active.
The island is accessible only by private transport or taxi and you can visit it and stay there for a few days in retreat after getting agreement with the monks who live there.