Cloister of S. Chiara

The Franciscan presence in Montalto dates back to 1215, year of the foundation of the Convent of S. Francesco delleFratte where FelicePeretti, the future Pope Sistus V, trained.Almost 4 centuries later, the Cloister of the Poor Clareswas founded.Founded in 1631 with the first two nuns from the cloister of Monte Santo (today Potenza Picena), between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Cloisterwas fed by girls from prominent local noble families as well as from about twenty other Italian locations, bringing goods as a dowry upon their entry. At the beginning of the 19th century, with a politically-weak Papal State, the nuns experienced great difficulty becausein 1810, a Napoleonic imperial decree suppressed religious orders: the nuns weredriven out and the cloister stripped of its possessions. The Papal State was reconstituted in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna and life in the Cloister resumed. From 1855, there was also a 9-year-old black girl named Amakera among the nuns. She is still known today as “the brunette”, rescued from slavery in Darfur, redeemed by the Genoese priest Don Nicolò Olivieri and brought to the Cloister of Montalto. Here she was baptized with the names Maria, Agnese, Enrica, Giuseppa, Luisa, Eleonora, Giacinta and Chiara, took communion and was confirmed, having as godfathers and godmothers the nobles and noblewomen of Montalto and Ascoli.Difficulty also occurred for the Cloister in January of 1861, year of the unification of Italy, when cessation of civil status of religious houses and other ecclesiastical buildings was decreed. On 1 April 1864, the nuns were therefore forced to leave the cloister again and found asylum in the Hermitage just outside Montalto, where they remained until 1876.It is due to the generosity of Nicola Pasqualini – whose house is adjacent to the cloister – that the Poor Claresreturned to their home. The number of nuns was reduced to a select few. In fact, in 1992 three Poor Clares from Montalto left for the Valle de Aragòn in Mexico City where they founded the new monastery of NuestraSeñora de la Luz.San Leonardo of Porto Patrizio patron of Imperia, visiting the Cloister of Montalto made a significant prophecy; he said to the nuns:“This Cloister will continue to live in future centuries. In this House, there will always be generous souls who love and praise the Lord.  They will be tested, but the Cloister will not be extinguished; in the Community, there will be blind and lame, but it will continue to survive for the glory of God”.In fact, life in the Cloister of S. Chiara in Montalto continued, in strong contrast with the whirlwind of modern life, until 2019.