The Vallumbrosan Order (or Vallombrosians) is a Roman Catholic religious order, technically a Benedictine congregation, which derives its name from the motherhouse, Vallombrosa (Latin Vallis umbrosa, 'shady valley'), situated c. 30 km from Florence on the northwest slope of Monte Secchieta in the Pratomagno chain.
The founder, a Florentine named Gualberto Visdomini, was born in the year 985 or 995, and died at Passignano in the year 1073, on 12 July, (his feast day is still celebrated on this day); he was canonized in 1193. Because one of his relatives was murdered, his duty was to avenge the deceased. He met the murderer in a narrow lane and was about to slay him, but when the man threw himself upon the ground with arms outstretched in the form of a cross, John forgave him through the love of Christ. On his way home, he entered the Benedictine Church at San Miniato to pray, and the figure on the crucifix bowed its head to him in recognition of his generosity. This story forms the subject of Burne-Jones's picture "The Merciful Knight", and has been adapted by Shorthouse in "John Inglesant".
John Gualbert became a Benedictine monk at San Miniato, but left that monastery to lead a more perfect life. His attraction was for the cenobitic, and not eremitic life, so after staying for some time with the monks at Camaldoli, he settled at Vallombrosa, where he founded his monastery in 1040.
1527 the monastery was burned by the troops of Emperor Charles V. It was rebuilt by Abbot Nicolini in 1637, and in 1634 an observatory was established.
From 1662–1680 the order was united to the Sylvestrines.
In 1808 Napoleon I's troops plundered Vallombrosa, and the monastery lay deserted till 1815. It was finally suppressed by the Italian Government in 1866. A few monks still remain to look after the church and meteorological station, but the abbey buildings have become a school of forestry that was founded in 1870 on the German model, the only one of its kind in Italy.
Present day Vallombrosa is also a health resort with a wonderful line of apothecary and treatment products made, of course, by the resident monks. Read more about this magical place here: Vallombrosa Abbey.
Also refer to ANTICA FARMACIA DEI MONACI BENEDETTINI VALLOMBROSANI.
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