Davide Lazzaretti, Tuscan Outlaw Prophet

October 3, 2011 / Local Interest
Arcidosso, Tuscany

With its bleak terrain and deeply-rutted one-lane access track, hauntingly austere Monte Labbro does not figure on most people’s itineraries. It offers neither bar nor gelateria; it does, however, proffer the intrigue of a historically colourful character, the enigmatic Davide Lazzaretti, who lived through the turbulence of Italy’s unification.

Lazzaretti was a local lad, born to a poor family in 1834. As a young man he claimed to have visions, which took his life on a distinctly religious path, though his unwavering insistence on a “Christ of the poor” pitted him against land-owners and the Establishment. He spent stints in prison on charges of apostasy.

Davide Lazzaretti and his followers, mostly local peasants, built a dry-stone circular structure, the Torre Giurisdavidica, on the craggy, severe summit of Monte Labbro, as their spiritual center. The ruins of the complex are open for anyone to contemplate and, on a clear day, Rome can be glimpsed from the top of the tower.

In August of 1878, he led a peaceful procession into the next village, Arcidosso, where the defenseless group was fired upon by a local law enforcement unit. Lazzaretti was shot in the forehead, two others also died, and at least 40 were wounded. The marksman responsible for ending the life of the “hero of the poor” was later found dead in Livorno, stabbed seven times.

Even after Lazzaretti’s death, a tug of war continued with the Church over his philosophical and religious legacy. The small but lovely Arcidosso library now houses the Davide Lazzaretti Museum, and every August many people make their way to the wind-buffeted crest of Monte Labbro to offer “a flower, a thought, a prayer” in remembrance.

Unidentified cairns are scattered about the peak, and you can add one of your own, joining in anonymous acknowledgement of whispers of a past laced with hope and tragedy. An excursion to Monte Labbro is sure to be an indelibly unforgettable one.

Katharina Alles-Trauttmansdorff

by Katharina Alles-Trauttmansdorff

Founder of Trust and Travel (specialists in holiday rentals of historical Estates in Italy). At her blog, Come Inside the Villa, you can get more inside glimpses of the people, lifestyle, art, and culture of the estates she represents.

7 Responses to “Davide Lazzaretti, Tuscan Outlaw Prophet”

  1. giuseppe spano (jojo)
    giuseppe spano (jojo)

    se la tua convinzione è mandato da ‘La Chiesa’, siete autorizzati a credere vostre convinzioni, allora!

  2. This mid-Tuscan-Umbrian area is the most “Italian” region of the country. The folks are confident in and comfortable with themselves, the climate is agreeable, the views are soothing, and the food is fresh and flavorful. What else is there?

  3. ken borelli

    The Tuscan outlaw was ahead of himself, and was part of a concept known today as “liberation theology” which ultimatley met the same fate by the Roman Catholic Establihment lead by the so called “Holy” father..as did Lazzaretti. Hopefully the human spirit transecends.

  4. Thank you very much for writing about something different. I really enjoyed this piece. It makes a change from the normal ‘places'(even though they are very interesting) that we get.

  5. Marilyn Romeo

    I’m interested in your description of the “so-called Holy Father” . . .who was he? And do you know why libration theology was unacceptable?

  6. Carol Nutile Burke

    Fascinating article. Except for the contributors to The Italian Notebook, this type of information would not be known to most of us . Thank you! Thank you!


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