Profile of David Lazzaretti

David Lazzaretti was born in Arcidosso in 1834 and was a carriage driver by profession. In 1860, he volunteered to join the Piedmont army, which fought the papal troops in Umbria and Marche. Moved by some visions, between April and September 1868, he went several times to Rome where he obtained an audience with Pius IX. Then, between October and December of that year, he had his most significant visionary experience in a cave in Sabina, from which the story about him began. When he returned to Monte Amiata, he had adopted the guise of a 'holy' man, and many believers gathered to listen to his preaching. He retired to Monte Labbro where, between 1870 and 1872, he laid the foundations of a community founded on Christian brotherhood which shared goods and work, and opened schools for children and adults. Monte Labbro was the spiritual centre and gathering place for the faithful. Lazzaretti's work not only aroused the interest of proselytes and his supporters, but also persecutors who were fearful of his ambition for social and religious reform.

Between March and April 1878, Lazzaretti underwent a trial in front of the Holy Office. At the beginning of July, he returned to Amiata where he and his followers were accused of hiding a subversive public order plot in the form of religion. On the morning of 17th August, a red wooden flag with the inscription "The Republic is the Kingdom of God" was hoisted on the tower. At dawn on 18th August, Lazzaretti and his people descended in a procession from Monte Labbro to announce the advent of the new age of law and justice to the world – the reign of the Holy Spirit. They weren’t carrying any weapons. In Arcidosso, a huge crowd had arrived from nearby villages to welcome them. However, the Carabinieri, a branch of the Italian police force, were also waiting for them and they fired on the defenceless crowd. David was shot in the head and died later that evening. He was 44 years old.