A Marble Miracle in San Francisco

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; suddenly, you are doing the impossible.”
– St. Francis of Assisi


Have you ever dreamed of doing an impossible thing? Here is a story to inspire you to take a first step.


On a recent trip to San Francisco to deliver a program, I “lived” for four days in the North Beach area of the City, the neighborhood of the Italians.


Down the block from the Café Puccini where I was able to indulge my morning ritual of cappuccino and journaling, I decided to pay a visit to the Shrine of St. Francis for the second time, to light a candle for a friend recovering from an illness.


I noticed a gate open on the side that had been closed the first time. I passed through the gate and glass doors into a vaulted, light-filled space with a Chapel that looked like it had somehow flown through space and landed there. As I was to find out, this was pretty much what happened.


Caretaker Susan warmly greeted me and over the next thirty minutes, she regaled me with the story of Porziuncola – the replica of the chapel St. Francis built in Assisi, following God’s instructions to “build my church.” (Porziuncola means “little corner of the world.”)



Opened in 2008, the dream of replicating the Chapel was a long one, held by Angela Alioto, the daughter of the well-known Mayor of San Francisco, the late Honorable Joe Alioto. She made trips to Assisi with her fellow women devotees of St. Francis, to measure, take photos and persuade the Friars of Assisi to grant her permission – it was a long time coming, but her persistence and prayers paid off.


Some of the stones on the chapel were collected by these ladies on Mount Sebasio, the same place St. Francis climbed, placing them in his burlap sacks. (One of his chapel stones was given as a gift and lies, illuminated in this lantern on the altar).


Sixteen Italian artisans from Assisi arrived to paint the cycle of frescoes, using a method called pictography that involved transferring digital images onto wet plaster and then hand painted – a painstaking but genuine method Michelangelo would have admired. Chief fresco artist, Stefano Lazzari said, “The presence of St. Francis is here. I feel it in this place.”


My favorite story of all was, of course, about the marble! Susan said that they wished the floor to be an exact replica as well. Alas, they were told that the rose marble had been finished off in the quarries 100 years ago.


A month after this discouraging news was delivered, the ladies received their miracle. Rose marble had been discovered under the floor of a church outside of Assisi that was to be torn down. “I think this is your marble!” declared the jubilant but disbelieving stone mason.


A team of those craftsmen with the fine Italian hands arrived to place the stone that flew from Umbria to San Francisco.


Starting out by doing what is necessary to achieve a dream is followed by doing what is possible and as St. Francis said, “Suddenly, you are doing the impossible.”


What do you dream of that could become true by starting out with acting on what is possible – what is that first step for you?


For me, it was writing that first story – the first step towards my dream of preserving my family heritage – a daunting task. I did what was necessary – writing something!


If you would have told me that this small act would have led me to writing a book, living part-time in Italy and bringing groups with me to share my beloved homeland – I would have said “that’s probably not possible.”


“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – Wolfgang von Goethe


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Current Events


Sunday, September 10th


“The First Italians: The Etruscans in Tuscany” - presented by Carol Faenzi


Nora Library, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.


Refreshments Served - Sponsored by The Italian Heritage Society of Indiana - Free, Open to the Public




Friday, September 29th


Olive Oil Tasting – presented by Carol Faenzi


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Learn how to taste, buy and reap the health benefits of authentic olive oil. Register here. - Space is limited.


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10 Comments

  1. Silva says:

    What color nail polish on your toes in the Locus Sanctus photo????
    Great article . . . we should put part of it in the newsletter… S

  2. Marsha says:

    What a beautiful story and experience. Thank you.

  3. Denis says:

    Thank you for highlighting this SF treasure! There was a controversy a few years ago about the Archdiocese replacing the volunteer group who acted as caretakers/docents but I don’t remember how it came out. Angela was engaged on the side of the volunteer group.
    Wonderful to meet you on your visit! Looking forward to seeing you again and touring with you.

    • Carol Faenzi says:

      Hi, Denis – thank you for your comment. It is a treasure. And so are you and Cherie! Would love to be with you two in Italy one day.

  4. Sheila says:

    This is an amazingly beautiful post that will continually inspire. Deeply grateful!

  5. Hi, The Knights of Saint Francis were created in 2008 to guard the Porzouncola as I had promised the friars on Italia…a certain m onsignor showed up four years later and thought we were doing too good of a job…lol…nottom line we were out for three weeks and right back in never to leave again!!!

    Thanks for the great article, check us out at Knightsofsaintfrancis.com….we are a wonderful group of lay people who guard Grancesco’s little Porzouncola.

    Also the story of the Porzouncola can be seen on youtube.com from our own DVD.

    Do Nuevo,
    Grazie M ille,
    Angela Alioto KOSF

  6. That should say di Nuovo

    And Porziuncola….

    I truly dislike spell check…i tried to edit this but couldn’t!

    Pax angela…ps feel free to edit typos!

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