The wolf in Gubbio
When Francis, during his long preaching tours, arrived at Gubbio (Umbria) he happened to be face to face to the well known wolf of Gubbio, the terror of the city for its repeated attacks to men. As told in the Fioretti ("Little Flowers of St Francis", a 14th-century compilation of writings on the life of the Saint), Chapter XXI, Francis managed to placate the wolf. He commanded the wolf not to harm the people and flocks anymore, and in return he persuaded the people to feed the animal as long as he lived. The wolf became docile and put his paw in Francis' hand. The pact was also accepted by all the citizens of Gubbio. From then on, the wolf lived around the city without aggression, entering into every house like a common dog. In Gubbio there is the church dedicated to the Saint (the Church of S. Francesco della Pace), built on the site of the cave where, according to the tradition, the wolf lived for two years until his death. The church was built in 1608 by the guild of "University of the Masons."
Image: "St. Francis leads the Wolf to Gubbio", illustration by H.J. Ford from "The Book of Saints and Heroes", 1912. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Francis_leads_wolf.gif
In 1871, along the same street, the skeleton of a wolf was found, which was then buried at the same church. The church itself has several elements related to the legend: a statue depicting the Saint and the wolf standing on a stone and closing the pact (the stone became later the altar of the church) and a bas-relief above the door portraying the wolf.
It is said that these cookies were prepared by Lady Jacopa Sottesoli, a devotee of St. Clare, especially for Francis. The Mostaccioli, small cookies in size of a finger, were defined by Francis himself "good and flavorous".
When Francis was near to death, he asked to write a letter to Jacopa, telling her about his coming death and asking her to join him at the Portiuncula and bring a cloth for his burial to wrap his body and candles for the funeral. At the end of the letter he expressed a wish: "Please also bring those sweets, that you were used to give me when I was sick in Rome." The letter had yet to be delivered in Rome, when Jacopa already arrived at Assisi with her children, carrying candles, robe and the cookies, that were typical of the harvest period, made of honey, almonds and grape must, called mostaccioli by the latter.
- 1 cup of grape must
- 250 grams of almonds
- 125 grams of honey
- 2 egg whites
- a pinch of pepper
- a pinch of cinnamon
- 150 grams of flour
Use the peeled almonds (which may have been boiled to remove the skin) putting them in a blender (they can be also crushed in a mortar as in ancient times), then add honey, egg whites, pepper, cinnamon and must. When the ingredients form a smooth paste, put it on a pastry board or into a large bowl and add the flour, until it becomes quite dense. Spread the dough with a rolling pin and cut into many strips large about 4 cm. Lightly grease a baking pan and and sprinkle it with some flour. Put the cookies on the pan leaving some place between each other, then place them in the oven at medium temperature for about 20 minutes. Before removing the cookies from the pan, wait they become cold.