San Vivaldo, the Jerusalem of Tuscany

San Vivaldo

is a small village located in the green hills of the Tuscan countryside at 450 meters above sea level in the municipality of Montaione in the province of Florence. Its origins date back to 1300, the year in which it was chosen by Blessed Vivaldo, a Franciscan tertiary civilian born in San Gimignano, to spend a life of penance and fasting there for "the love of Jesus Christ".

Today it is considered one of the most famous places of worship in Italy and has been recognized as a national monument. On 1 May 1500, following the installation of the Franciscan friars minor, a series of small churches and chapels began to be built which reproduced the typology and the holy places of Jerusalem. Hence the name Jerusalem of Tuscany.

Vivaldo Stricchi was born in San Gimignano in 1260 from a wealthy family. In 1285, together with 11 friends, he bought the Consuma palace in Siena, spending a period of luxury, parties and wasting a lot of money, so much so that a short time later they were all reduced to misery. This is the famous spendereccia (or godereccia) brigade and some of its members are also mentioned by Dante in the XXIX canto of the Inferno. Later some friends die in battle, others go mad, and still others manage to find employment. Vivaldo instead begins to frequent priest Bartolo from nearby Picchiena, deciding to stay with him and live a life as a true Christian until Bartolo dies in 1300. He then decides to move to the hospital of Santa Maria a Camporena, located between San Gimignano and Montaione in a dense forest of centuries-old chestnut trees, initially sleeping in a hermitage near the church and then building a cell inside a large chestnut tree. At that time, hospitable meant a small church with adjacent rooms for the traveler and pilgrims to rest. Today the ancient church of Santa Maria a Camporena corresponds to the chapel of San Francesco in the church of San Vivaldo. He lives a life of penance and fasting until his death on May 1, 1320 at the age of 60. his body is found the following day by the inhabitants of Montaione and immediately transported to the village to bury it under the altar of the church, naming him patron saint of Montaione and they propose to celebrate his feast every year on the day of his death.