San Vivaldo and its Holy Mount is situated amongst the graceful and gentle hills of the Tuscan countryside at 450 meters above the sea level in the territory of Montaione between Florence and Siena.
The origins of San Vivaldo are dated back to the 14th century, when the blessed Vivaldo - a civil Franciscan tertiary born in San Gimignano - choose the area to do a life of fast and penance for "the love for Jesus Christ".
Today is one of the most important religious places of Italy, and it has been recognized as national monument.
The Holy mount of San Vivaldo in Tuscany, is one of the Holy Mount common in the north of Italy - like the holy mount of Varallo Sesia in Piedmont - builted between 1500 and 1600, which origin are dated back between 1185 and 1280, when the area was possessed by the friars of Normandy Cross and disputed by Castelfiorentino and San Miniato.When Franciscan entered the old church of Camporena, in the place there was still devotion to Vivaldo Stricchi, a Blessed hermit whom veneration start to be diffused when since he has been found - in miraculous circumstances - in the trunk of a chestnut he used as home when he was alive.
In 1325, the place where he died, was built a Chapel dedicated to Vivaldo, and than a monastry, and in 1355 a church that today is still possible to visit.
Since 1 st of may of 1500, after the establishment of a Franciscan Minor Friars settlement, they start to build a complex of chapels and churches reproducing the topography of the holy places of Jerusalem. Here the name "The Jerusalem of Tuscany".The holy mount has been planned by the Franciscans that in that time were used to go on a pilgrimage in the Holy Land, in particular by Brother Tommaso da Firence and Brother Cherubino Conzi,that built first the monastery and then 25 chapels, helped in the task by local people in transporting stones necessary at the buildings from the river Egola to San Vivaldo.
The main purpose in building the chapels was the one to offer local people the choice to go on a pilgrimage without going to Jerusalem - that in this period was subjected by Turkish rule - and without an excessive expenses. In fact, there is a document of Pope Leone X (from the Medici's family) the acknowledgment of the Chapels as religious place and the granting of and indulgence to those who went there to pray.
For the realization, Brother Tommaso da Firenze, was exclusively submitted to his own experience thanks to many travels in the Near East, to Creta and in the Holy Land, in addition to the fact to be in contact with Brother Bernardino Caimi, that in this period was studying and planning the Holy Mount of Varallo Sesia in Piedmont.
Brother Tommaso choose the place with extremely accuracy,adopting the astronomic orientation of Jerusalem and not the local, in fact he identified: at East of the Monastery a wooden valley that was similar to the Josafat valley, at South a small hill perfect to represent the Mount of Olives, at North a natural and flat area that could represent the place for the Temple, while in the nearby, on a small hill he could represent the Calvary.
Who was Vivaldo Stricchi
Vivaldo Stricchi was born in Tuscany in San Gimignano in 1260 from a well-off family.
In 1285, together with 11 friends, he bought in Siena the "Palazzo della Consuma" spending a life of luxury with parties and wasting a lot of money, insomuch that in few time they all fall into poverty.
Later, some of these friends died in battle, other became mad while others find a job.
Vivaldo, start to associate with priest Bartolo of Picchiena (a locality in the nearby of San Gimignano) deciding to start the life of a real Christian till the died of Bartolo in 1300. After that he dicide to move into the "ospitale" of Santa Maria a Camporena situated between San Gimignano and Montaione in a thick wood of centenarian chestnuts, sleeping at first in a small monastery near the church and later in a solitary cell built inside a big chestnut.
During that time an "Ospitale" has a small church with some rooms for the rest of pilgrims.
Today the old church of Santa Maria a Camporena has been included into the Church of San Vivaldo and it correspond at the chapel of San Francisco.
He lives a life of fast and penance till he died the 1st may 1320 at 60 years old. His body was recovered the day after form the citizens of Montaione and immediately transported in the town to bury under the altar of the Church nominating as Patron Saint of Montaione, and celebrating a feast every day the date when he died.