Hermitage of San Salvatore (Holy Redeemer) of Lecceto

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Hermitage of San Salvatore (Holy Redeemer) of Lecceto

Eremo di Lecceto

Hermitage of San Salvatore (Holy Redeemer) of Lecceto

Monastery of the Holy Saviour Lecceto
Monastery of the Holy Saviour Lecceto




The Monastery of the Holy Saviour at Lecceto in Tuscany, commonly known as the Eremo di Lecceto, was the principal House of the order of the Hermit Friars of Saint Augustine (not to be confused with the Augustinian Canons Regular) in 1256, when Pope Alexander IV constituted the Augustinian order internationally. It was dedicated to Saint Saviour.

The hermitage was built in an area dense with holm oaks (lecci) from which its name derives between 1189 and 1223 in an area called Grallanda, about 8 km from Sienna. On 4 March 1387, the community of the hermitage became the first to follow the new rule of St. Augustine thanks to the approval of the prior Bartolomeo da Venezia. The church, first mentioned in a document dated 1223, was rebuilt in 1317 and enlarged in 1344.

The monastery is accessible from the main road via a dirt road through the forest and at certain times of the day, the main door is open and some of the cloisters can be visited. (Do not leave valuables in your car. The nuns warn that there are thieves who hide in the forest and make a practice of breaking into parked cars.)

Monastery of Lecceto
Monastery of Lecceto
Hermitage and Monastery of the Holy Saviour at Lecceto
Hermitage and Monastery of the Holy Saviour at Lecceto

On 4 May 1256, Pope Alexander IV issued a papal bull Licet ecclesiae catholicae, uniting five Monastic congregations into the Tuscan community of Lecceto. The other four were the houses of St. William, of Brother John Bono, of Favale and of Brettine. From this act of union, the modern Augustinian Order expanded rapidly, and it is on the basis of this act of union that Tuscany is regarded as the homeland of the modern Augustinian Friars, and Lecceto is its principal monastic house.

Lecceto became a centre of reform for the Augustinians, and developed methods of encouraging a more faithful practice of the Augustinian Rule, and the Constitutions of the Order. At its height, Lecceto was the Monastic house of four of the order’s most distinguished Priors General. From the Observant Congregation of Lecceto, other like-minded groups developed over the centuries, including the Observant Congregation of Saxony where Martin Luther was professed.

Probably the most famous member of the Lecceto community was William Flete, an Englishman. In 1359, when Flete was about to attain his Master of Theology degree at Cambridge University, he had a change of heart and chose to leave England and go to Lecceto to intensify his experience of contemplation. He stayed for the remainder of his life. He became regarded by his contemporaries as a master of the spiritual life. He was a personal confidant of St. Catherine of Sienna.

By 1968, in modern times, the monastery had declined, and the roof had fallen in. In that year, the Dominican Bishop of Sienna decided that he wanted to revitalise Augustinian spirituality at Lecceto . He began a project to restore the structures and to invite Augustinian contemplatives to transfer their community here. Augustinian nuns arrived back at Lecceto in 1972. The re-established community of Augustinians here have revived the Augustinian tradition of contemplation. The monastery welcomes overnight guests, who are also welcome to join the nuns at the Divine Office.

Hermitage of Lecceto courtyard
Hermitage of Lecceto courtyard
Eremo di Lecceto
Eremo di Lecceto

The floor plan of the church of the monastery of Lecceto has a nave with a terminal scarsella, preceded by a portico on polygonal pillars. In the simple gabled façade there is a small circular window and a Romanesque portal. The interior, restored in Baroque style, preserves 14 C frescoes.

The monastic structures surround the two cloisters, one Gothic, the other from the 15 C. On the external wall of the facade and along the portico there are monochrome frescoes, depicting Hell, Paradise, Works of Mercy and Life in times of peace and war, attributed to Carlo di Giovanni. Other interesting monochrome frescoes, depicting of the hermit’s life, are found in the 15 C cloister.

This hermitage was known starting from the 14 C as a mystical centre linked to the activity of Saint Catherine of Sienna and was elected as his home by the English theologian and companion of Saint Catherine, William Flete. On 19 May 1385, the prior general of the Augustinian order, Bartolomeo da Venezia, decided, as soon as he was elected, to make the hermitage of Lecceto a centre of exemplary spirituality and with a decree of 4 March 1387 placed it under the direct jurisdiction of the prior. From 1398 to 1408 Filippo Agazzari was its prior, then vicar general of the Augustinian Congregation of Observance. During the 15 C, Lecceto was the origin of a total of three priors of the order, including Cardinal Alessandro Oliva. During the Renaissance, the Augustinian cardinal Egidio da Viterbo, humanist and philosopher, stayed here several times starting from 1502, dedicating one of his works, the Panegyricus pro coenobio Ilicetano, to the monastery.