Pope Francis' namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, founded his order of mendicant friars in the 13th century after receiving a calling from God to "rebuild my church."
Some 800 years later, St. Francis' followers are rebuilding his church in the ancient tradition of door-to-door begging that St. Francis championed — but with a very modern twist.
With interest in things Franciscan at an all-time high, the friars who run the San Francesco a Ripa church in Rome launched a Kickstarter online fundraising campaign Tuesday to raise $125,000 for the restoration of the tiny cell where St. Francis stayed when he came to Rome to see the pope.
"Like the friars in the past would go asking for a piece of bread, today we are going to ask for a dollar, a euro, so we can make this place as it was in the time of St. Francis," said the Rev. Stefano Tamburo, the 43-year-old guardian of the sanctuary who is spearheading the campaign.
Kickstarter is one of dozens of crowd-funding websites that have sprung up in recent years to let people raise money for specific projects. Since it was founded in 2009, Kickstarter campaigns have included Spike Lee movies, funky restaurants, arts projects and business startups, according to its website.
Throngs of pilgrims have been flocking to the Franciscan sanctuary ever since the first pope named after Francis was elected a year ago. "We've seen a significant increase in pilgrims, but also Romans who maybe didn't know about this place," Tamburo said.