St Giovanni Gualberto
Giovanni Gualberto was born in Florence of a noble family A.D. 999. At his father’s wish, he took up a military career. His only brother, Hugh, was slain by a relative. One Good Friday, as Giovanni was riding into Florence accompanied by armed soldiers, he encountered his brother’s slayer in a place where neither could avoid each other. Giovanni would have slain him. However, his adversary, who was totally unprepared to fight, fell upon his knees with his arms outstretched in the form of a cross, and implored him for the sake of our Lord’s holy Passion, to spare his life. St Giovanni said in reply, “I cannot refuse what you ask in Christ’s name. I grant you your life, and I give you my friendship. Pray that God will forgive me my sin.” Grace had triumphed.
A humble and changed man, Giovanni entered the nearby church of St Miniato on a hill overlooking Florence. Whilst he prayed, the figure of our crucified Lord, before which he was kneeling, bowed its head towards him as if to ratify his pardon.
Moved by this experience, he sought the counsel of St Romuald, Abbot of the great Benedictine Hermitage in the depths of the forest of Camaldoli. St Romuald encouraged him to take the Benedictine habit and live a life of prayer and penance. After a period at Camaldoli Hermitage, St Romuald encouraged him to establish his own monastery. For this he chose an area called Vallombrosa, named after a shady valley a few miles from Florence.
Giovanni Gualberto lived a life of great austerity and fervent prayer. He fought vigorously against any form of corruption wherever he found it, and laboured assiduously to promote the Apostolic Faith. Blessed with many virtues and merits he died surrounded by his community of monks and amidst the singing of angels around his bed, on 11th July 1073. The special events of this great saint’s life can be viewed in the frescos painted on the walls of the ancient monastery at Vallombrosa. Under the keeping of the Vallombrosa Fathers, the monastery remains a place of quiet retreat in the Tuscan countryside – testimony of the values and traditions of traditional Christian spirituality.
The writer has chosen St Giovanni Gualberto as a Patron because he continues to be a very fine model of how to deal effectively with corrupt practices anywhere, especially when they continue with the approval of people in positions of authority. This did not deter him from telling them to their faces that they were endorsing destruction and serious decline, and it should not deter us, should we find it necessary to do the same.
St Giovanni Gualberto, holy Abbot and Reformer: pray for us.
View approaching monastery & church at Vallombrossa.
Courtyard of monastery.
Original Kitchen oven from approx AD 1015.
Translation of relics of Holy Founder TO Vallombrossa.
Fresco on verandah (St Michael, Our Lady, St Giovanni)
Fresco on verandah (St. Benedict)