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from issue no. 12 - 2004

Brief history of the hermitage of Lecceto

by Gianni Cardinale

The hermitage of Lecceto

The hermitage of Lecceto

The hermitage of Lecceto has a centuries-long history down to today, but it seems one single period. It seems that all this history speaks today. The hermitage is situated a few kilometers from Siena and has been inhabited by Augustinian fathers since the first half of the 13th century to the end of the 1800s, the time of the Napoleonic suppression. They have left us a very long history of sanctity. In 1972 a female community of Augustinian nuns transferred there from the city of Siena – they were reduced to a few, frail old nuns and their convent was by then falling to pieces, no longer inhabitable – with the encouragement and support of the archbishop Monsignor Castellano and of the Father General of the Order. And so Lecceto once again became the site of a new monastic experience, of a life devoted to prayer and witness. It seems one single story, the same yearning, the same unique seeking of God that centuries before had drawn to the woods men gripped by the love of God and the Mystery of His life. There are about nine centuries of history during the course of which the eremitic monastic movement – which involved all the “Tuscia” area – witnessed men who lived in grottos, some of which still exist close to the convent, consume themselves in a life full of God. Witnesses to the only fundamental need of man’s heart: to encounter God and oneself, reach truth, know the most unknown life, which is that of the Trinity, which has set up its abode in man himself. «You made us for Yourself …», Augustine wrote in The Confessions: man lives in this tension of hope. And everything, here, the silence and the reality that surround us, speaks of this, and speaks of it also to all those who come to us today. When half way through the 13th century the small monastery of hermits was, through the will of the Church, under Innocent IV, subsumed together with all the groups of eremites in Tuscia, into the Augustinian Order – the so-called “Great Union” of 1256 -, the hermitage, rich in personalities known for their sanctity and learning, became an active center of spirituality and a point of reference for all. The fabric of the lives of the monks was entirely woven of prayer, a prayer composed of mildness, of compassion for man. The Assempri – anecdotes of this early Augustinian life – recount many significant episodes in this regard. Catherine of Siena also frequented the place. An ancient manuscript runs as follows: «This solitude of Lecceto was often visited by the great servant of God Catherine of Siena who sought recourse in the counsel and prayers of those learned and holy fathers» (Sacra leccetana Selva, 17th century). Today the lamp of Lecceto burns again and the luminous wisdom of Augustine can once more light the path of the Lord and of His Gospel.

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