The “Jerusalem” of San Vivaldo

A unique place that contains an extraordinary blend of history, art, spirituality and nature. The “Jerusalem” of San Vivaldo, built in the early sixteenth century by the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, is one of the most important examples in the West of a substitute pilgrimage site, which replicates the main places of interest in the Holy Land. For many centuries, the medieval tradition of making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem was prevented when Palestine fell first into Arab, and later Ottoman, hands. This was why the Franciscans, who had once been the custodians of the Holy Sepulchre, took up residence in the monastery in this area and built a citadel of chapels and shrines in the woods, so that the faithful could come from near and far to carry out their pilgrimage symbolically. What makes the Sacred Mount of San Vivaldo unique in comparison with similar Italian and European sites is its topographical layout. The arrangement of the buildings in the woods is a scale replica of the urban layout of Jerusalem at the time, albeit oriented differently, with an accuracy that cannot be found elsewhere.

The style of these buildings is an expression of “humble” architecture, which is, however, elevated by typically classical elements. The chapels are home to original polychrome sculptural groups made of cold-painted terracotta, inspired by episodes from the Passion and the life of Jesus of Nazareth. These works were created by distinguished Florentine sculptors, such as Giovanni Della Robbia, Agnolo di Polo and Benedetto Buglioni, which are brilliantly integrated with perspectival frescoes, making the sculptural corpus of San Vivaldo one of the most interesting moments in the history of Tuscan terracotta in the sixteenth century. The dozens of motionless figures who populate the chapels, with their gaunt faces, pronounced gestures and polychrome robes, were designed to immediately convey the message of the Gospel, for the benefit of the erudite and illiterate alike. Still today, they welcome visitors to this immense sacred theatre, which is filled with vivid, expressive power, and accompany them on a journey of meditation. A journey through the beauty of a collection of art that was truly created for the people.

The design of the site is attributed to Friar Tommaso da Firenze. We know that this particular Franciscan monk lived in San Vivaldo for many years, but he had spent long periods of time in the East and perhaps in the Holy Land, and that he died in 1534. The construction of the monastery, chapels and the church as it appears today took place in parallel. The building work was completed in a relatively short time, thanks in no small part to the spiritual fervour and civic pride of the local people. The old church of Santa Maria in Camporena had already existed on the site for some time before the Franciscans arrived at the end of the fifteenth century. This small church was used for the obscure, regional cult of San Vivaldo, a local hermit, whose historical origins are unclear but is traditionally believed to have lived between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and who died here in contemplative solitude in the hollow of a chestnut tree trunk, which he had chosen as his home.

Therefore, the little “Jerusalem of Tuscany” grew from the seed of devotion that was linked to the ancient hermitic tradition of this area, something which is deeply entrenched in the local population all over the Valdelsa region, who rushed in their droves to contribute to the construction of the chapels. It seems hundreds of people came to help transport the stones on foot from the bed of the nearby river Evola all the way up the steep hillside to the places under construction.

By 1516 (1517 according to the modern calendar) a papal brief by Pope Leo X granted an indulgence to those who went on pilgrimage to the 34 chapels of San Vivaldo, and for centuries the tradition of pilgrimage remained alive at this sacred place. Today’s “Jerusalem” does not entirely coincide with the original project. Some of the loci [places] named in the papal brief were lost over time, while others were added later. However, these subsequent transformations have not altered the overall layout of the site and its importance in terms of historic, artistic, spiritual and anthropological heritage.

Gerusalemme di San Vivaldo
Via S. Vivaldo, 1, 50050 San Vivaldo FI
43.524313, 10.898291

VISITS, TIMETABLES AND TICKETS:

The monumental complex “La Gerusalemme di San Vivaldo” can be visited at the following times:

Winter Timetable
From November 1st to March 31st
Monday-Saturday: 2.00 pm – 5.00 pm
Sunday and holidays: 2.00 pm – 5.00 pm

The opening is always on reservation
The visit can be reserved at the following contact details:
E-mail: cultura@comune.montaione.fi.it
Phone: +39 0571 699267

Summer Timetable
From April 1st to October 31st
Monday-Saturday: 3.00 pm – 7.00 pm
Wednesday: 9.00 pm – 11.00 pm (from June 16th to September 15th only)
Sunday and holidays: 10.00 am – 7.00 pm

The opening is always on reservation
The visit can be reserved at the following contact details:
E-mail: turismo@comune.montaione.fi.it
Phone: +39 0571 699255

Attention!
Starting from August, 6th 2021 access to Museums will be permitted only to those in possession of a Green Covid-19 Certification (Green Pass).
Click here for more information. 

Visits take place every hour, for small groups (max 5 people)
A Reservation is required.

METHOD OF VISIT AND RELATED RATES:

Opening and full guided tour (1 hour)
• Full ticket € 5.00
• Reduced ticket € 4.00

Opening and complete guided tour (1 hour) + admission to the Civic Museum of Montaione
• Full ticket € 6.00
• Reduced ticket € 4.00

Full opening and guided tour (1 hour) + single entrance to the Empolese Valdelsa Museum System (includes 21 museums)
• Single ticket € 15.00
• Family ticket € 35.00 (2 adults + max 3 under 18)

Opening and reduced guided tour (30 min.)
• Full ticket € 4.00
• Reduced ticket € 3.00

Open only for 1 hour (reserved for groups of at least 10 people)
Total ticket of € 30.00

Reduced admission
• Children aged 5 to 14
• Adults over 65 years of age
• Organized groups with more than 20 people
• Students aged 15 to 25 who hold a YOUTH CARD

Free entry
• Children under the age of 5
• School visits to the schools of Montaione
• School visits as part of Mudev’s educational projects
• Disabled visitors and carers
• EDUMUSEI card holders
• Visitors in institutional representation

Access to the chapels of the monumental complex “La Gerusalemme di San Vivaldo” takes place in compliance with the anti-covid rules with particular regard to the obligation of interpersonal distancing of 1 meter and the use of a mask. Access is allowed to only one staff at a time.

The on-site reception is closed to the public.
The visit can be booked at the following addresses:
E-mail: turismo@comune.montaione.fi.it
Tel: +39 0571 699255