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Prophet David 06/03/2011

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c. 1910 

On leaving Santa Fiora for Arcidosso we pass near by the graveyard where the Prophet David Lazzaretti is buried. The road crosses the watershed between the rivers Fiora and Ente on a high ridge; the view is exceedingly fine. The top of Monte Labbro (about 3800 feet) is clearly seen from many points. On it are the ruins of the buildings where the Prophet David lived and preached. About half way between Santa Fiora and Arcidosso lies the village of Bagnore. The whole drive occupies about an hour. The town of Arcidosso originally belonged to the Abbey of S. Salvatore. In the twelfth century the Aldobrandeschi were in possession; in 1331 the place was conquered by the Sienese, who paid the Aldobrandeschi for their loss. The taking of the town is painted in the hall of the Palazzo Pubblico at Siena. From the small piazza formed by the meeting of roads pass through an archway and climb the staircase to the R. This leads to another piazza on the top of the hill dominated by the castle. Arcidosso is about fourteen miles from the station of Monte Amiata, which may be reached in about two hours.

David Lazzaretti, the Prophet of Monte Amiata, was born at Arcidosso in 1834. He was by occupation a barrocciaio or wine carrier. When a boy of fourteen, a friar prophesied to him that the true direction of his life would be revealed to him; but it was not until he was thirty-four years old that the vision appeared. He went to Rome, told the Pope what he had seen, gave himself to penitence, retired to a cave at Subiaco, and had further revelations. In 1870-1871 he became famous in Monte Amiata as a prophet. His Society of Christian Families had goods in common. They were divided into three grades, the third and highest congregation (that of Faith) consisting of penitents and hermits who were bound to go on pilgrimage to the Seven Churches of Rome and to the grotto in which David had begun his new life.

In 1873 the prophet was arrested by the secular authorities, who were suspicious of his unguarded speech, of the possible unrest arising from his prophecies, and perhaps also of the practical application of the idea that all things should be in common. In 1876 David fell under ecclesiastical censure, and in 1877 the use of the chapel on Monte Labbro, which had been originally consecrated by the Bishop of Montalcino, was forbidden. The writings of the prophet at this time included ideas analogous to the Joachimism of the thirteenth century. The reign of the Father (the rule of law), which had been followed by the reign of the Son (the rule of grace) was to be followed by the reign of the Spirit (the rule of justice). His cry of ‘Viva la repubblica di Dio’ gave as little satisfaction to the secular authorities as his denunciation of the ‘Chiesa bottega’ could have given to the ecclesiastics.

The end came in 1878. The festival of the Assumption was celebrated in abstinence and with prayer. A crowd, said to have numbered 3000 persons, followed David and his disciples from Monte Labbro in procession to Arcidosso. The prophet appeared as the new Redeemer, the reign of justice was to begin. In the wide avenue which leads into the town the procession was met by the delegate of Public Safety and the Syndic; the prophet refused to stop at the order of the authorities, and was shot down by the Carabinieri. He died a few days later, and was buried at Santa Fiora. The simple tragedy was perhaps the natural result of contact between the callous insensibility of the official mind and the spiritual idealism of the peasant. His sufficient epitaph is found in words ascribed to the Bishop of Montalcino, ‘Would that our believers had the faith of the Lazzarettisti’.

The ascent of Monte Amiata may be made from various points; from the western side, five hours on foot, and from Abbadia S. Salvatore three or three and a half hours may be allowed. The upper valleys of the Orcia and the Paglia differ from the valleys of Northern and Eastern Tuscany such as the Garfagnana and the Casentino. In Southern Tuscany creta is seldom far away; this difficult and hitherto infertile country has, however, a charm of its own: the charm of a desolate land, remote and wild, a land that has yielded but little to the hand of man but much to the spirit of those who have learned to love it.

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