Bernadine of Siena
||St. Bernardine was born
in Massa Marittima on September 8, 1380 where his father Tollo Albizzeschi, in 1377, had
been sent to as a Governor of the Republic of Siena. Rather young he became an orphan and
returned to Siena where he grew up first in the house of his aunt Diana and then in the
one of his cousin Tobia. In 1400, at age 20, he gave up his studies at the university in
order to help the sick during the period of the great plague in the Hospital S. Maria
della Scala of which he was nominated director.
On the September 18,
1402 he became a Franciscan friar in the Church of San Franceso in Siena; he lived his
novitiate in the Colombaio Monastery (Seggiano) of which remain only ruins.
In 1406 he received as a gift from
the Hospital S. Maria dellla Scala the Capriola-hill where he founded the
Osservanza-Monastery. In 1417 he began his journeys as the apostle of Italy which he
continued until his death.
One of the characteristics of his
sermons was the devotion towards the Holy Name of Jesus.
He loved his home town Siena and it
was also he who gave rise to many a good law adopted by the Republic of Siena.
In 1425 on the Piazza S.
and in 1427 on the Piazza del Campo he gave two of his famous sermons.
St. Bernardine died on the May 20,
1444 at L'Aquila where he wanted to preach. On May 14, 1450 he was canonized by Pope
Nikolaus V in the Basilica of St. Peter's in Rome.
The presence of St. Bernardine in
Siena can be perceived almost everywhere since the emblem with the name of Jesus Christ,
whose worship was propagated by St. Bernardine during his sermons, is to be found on the
fašade of numerous buildings from the most famous like the town-hall and the cathedral to
the most humble private houses.
Of the painted and gilded disks with
the holy emblem, which the saint used to show his spectators and bless them, two originals
are preserved up to this very day, the one in the Basilica dell-Osservanza and the other
in the Oratory of St. Bernardine. These two churches represent the main destinations of a
trip in the world of St. Bernardine.
The Basilica dell'Osservanza was
constructed during the last 25 years of the 15th century on a green hill called
"Colle della Capriola" on the site of an old hermitage, the latter had been
given to St. Bernardine in the year 1404 as a gift. It is an elegant, serene building in
pure Renaissance-style and ascribed to Giacomo Cozzarelli. (The church was restored in
accordance with the original using the same construction materials after its destruction
by aerial bombardment in 1944).
In the church and in the added
monastery numerous keepsakes of the Saint are treasured; e.g., his coat, which is
preserved in a reliquary of gilded silver with enamel-paintings made by the famous Sienese
goldsmith Franco d'Antonio during the years 1454 to 1461. The Oratory of St. Bernardine
which was given its name during the second half of the 15th century, is to be found in the
Piazza S. Francesco where St. Bernardine in 1425 held a cycle of his sermons preserved by
Sano di Pietro by means of a delightful panel. Another panel shows the sermon in the
Campo-Square in 1427. This Oratory is a real shrine of admirable works of art: it is
composed of various rooms and his fame is above all due to the frescoes with which Sodoma,
Girolamo del Pacchia and Domenico Beccafumi from 1518 until 1532 covered the walls of the
richly decorated chapel on the first floor thus creating one of the most beautiful
architectural and decorative whole of the Sienese Renaissance.
A visit to the most significant
places of St. Bernardine in Siena may not exclude the 13th century seat of the Compagnia
dei Disciplinati della Beata Virgine Maria which is located under the
vaults of the Hospital Societa di Esecurtori di Pie Disposizioni
entrance from the Cathedral square. St. Bernardine entered this company as a young man and it is here where a most
wonderful wooden cross from the 14th century is venerated. In front of the cross,
according to tradition, is where St. Bernardine received the call to embrace a monastic