San Vivaldo, the Tuscan JerusalemUnknown places & works
San Vivaldo, the Tuscan Jerusalem
San Vivaldo is one of the many Sacri Monti (Italian for "Sacred Mountains") that were built around the 1500s in various parts of Italy and especially in Lombardy and Piedmont. These are places set in a beautiful landscape where, through paintings or sculptures placed in small chapels, facts and events from the life of Jesus Christ are narrated. San Vivaldo is located in Montaione in the green hills of the Tuscan countryside at 450 meters above sea level and about fifty kilometres from Florence.
Although its origins date back to 1300, when blessed Vivaldo, Franciscan tertiary, chose it as the place in which to spend his life as a hermit, the idea of building a sacred mountain came from the Franciscan friars who settled there on May 1st 1500. Under the guidance of Fra Tommaso da Firenze and Fra Cherubino, they firstly built the monastery and then proceeded with the construction of the 25 chapels which follow the places of the Holy Land. Fra Tommaso in particular had travelled extensively around that area and also in the East, therefore his experience was crucial for the realization of the Sacred Mountain.
Thanks to a Papal Bull of Leo X - Jerusalem had fallen into Turkish domination - it was decided that visiting the chapels was just like going to Jerusalem and that it resulted in the granting of indulgences. Apart from the issue of the Turks, travelling to San Vivaldo was undoubtedly less expensive and certainly more affordable for everyone.
The chapels are inspired by various episodes of the Life and Passion of Jesus Christ and contain statues of artisans of the Della Robbia school, and in some cases even a few paintings. Even the places where the various chapels are placed were chosen in relation to those of the Holy Land: one mount was chosen to represent Mount of Olives, a natural terrace for Temple Mount and a small hill was perfect to represent the Calvary.
Given that despite many centuries have gone by the situation in the Holy Land is still far from being peaceful, those who wish to can still take advantage of this spiritual place that serves a bit as a ‘surrogate', but is still imbued by charming mysticism as well as possessing a great historical and artistic value.
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