Tuscany – Eremo di Calomini

by Samuele Sodini

Eremo di Calomini

Eremo di Calomini

The Hermitage of Calomini, built against a rocky precipice in the Comune of Vergemoli, iso ne of the best-know and most-visited shrines in the Serchio Valley, together with those of San Pellegrino and the Argegna.
Access to the hermitage, which is built in the “abri” style of religious architecture and of which other examples are to be found in the Apuan Alps, is via an ancient stone portal.
The primitive Church, already documented in the XI century when the image of the Madonna della Penna was venerated here, was enlarged several times in the XII century and then reduced to its present size.
Today only the presbytery, the cells and the sacristy retain the characteristic of having been cut out of the living rock and left bare. In sacristy there is a large inlaid wooden cabinet with bas-reliefs made by the craftsman Luca pini in 1707.
From the document f 1361 in which the lay broche of the Cell of Sancta maria ad Mrtyres requested that th bishop should legalize the various donations made to the oratory, one can clearly see how Madonna della penna, was from the XIV century onwards.
The first episcopal grant of benefice dedicated to the Retreat of St. Mary of the Grotto is dated 2nd may 1444.
There was another in 1947 and from the XVI century onwards the fame of this Madonna grew to such an extent that bishops and cardinals journeyed to worship her.
Then between 1631 and 1690 the people with spontaneus donations did all they could to enlarge and render the ancient Church more magnificient.
At the beginning of the XVII century, the records of the shrine show that the double colonnade was built, the Grotto enlarged so a sto provide a fit setting for the sacristy, the Church floor made good and all other finishing touches necessary to make that place of prayer worthy of admiration were completed.
The hermits looked after the sanctuary until 1868 when the parish priests of the nearby villages-who by tradition were the administrators-decided to take on direct responsability for the task of promoting the worship of St.Mary of the grotto. Thus after a presence of over five centuries, the Hermits of Calomini were no more and their memory the people, when indicating the madonna ad Martyres, began calling her Madonna of the Hermit or simply “Hermit”
By the decree of 1914 made by the Bishop of Massa, the custody of the sanctuary was entraste to the Capuchin monks of Lucca who for over fifty years have conservedd that wich has arisen on this precipice out of a pure dedication to the Virgin.
On may and sptember numerous believers still climb this steep mountain wich holds intact the miracle of the waters in a vision of absolute purity.

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