The enchanting Eremo di Calomini: a refuge of spirituality in the heart of the Garfagnana
Italy, with its extraordinary variety of natural and cultural beauties, stands like a precious treasure chest patiently waiting to be discovered. Among the winding streets, ancient cities and picturesque villages, countless jewels of fascinating beauty are hidden. However, some of these places remain hidden from the best known tourist itineraries, reserving their magic only for those willing to embark on a passionate search. Among these places stands the majestic Eremo di Calomini, an ancient refuge of spirituality and serenity nestled among the lush Tuscan mountains.
Tuscany, famous for its scenic beauty, its works of art and its historical heritage, offers sweet and serene landscapes, vineyards and olive groves as far as the eye can see, medieval villages and cities of art that inspire admiration and gratitude in Worldwide. Yet, even in this lauded region, there are places that surprise and captivate. One of these hidden treasures is the Eremo di Calomini, a solitary church hidden in the Apuan forests, a jewel of spirituality and history unknown to most.
Where is the hermitage?
The Calomini Hermitage is located in the municipality of Fabbriche di Vergemoli, in Gafragnana, on the road that runs alongside the Turrite di Gallicano stream. The complex stands in an extraordinary position which sees it emerge from the rock to overlook a 70-metre overhang. The sacristy, the most intimate and mystical place of the hermitage, is carved directly into the rock itself, according to legend, with the aid of a simple chisel.
Birth and history of the Calomini Hermitage
The origins of the enchanting sacred effigy of the Madonna, to which the Eremo Calomini is devoted, unravel through various fascinating legends. According to some accounts, a woman is said to have fallen down a cliff, but, invoking the help of the Virgin Mary, she emerged unharmed. Other accounts claim that a statue was discovered by shepherds and placed in the cave.
However, the most authoritative version tells of an event that happened around the year one thousand, when a girl went to quench her thirst at a spring and suddenly found herself in front of a willow statue depicting the Madonna, later called ‘della Penna’. This extraordinary event was disclosed in the village, and the fellow citizens decided to move the statue to Gallicano. But, strangely, the statue disappeared within twenty-four hours, only to be found again in the sacred spring where it first appeared.
From this memorable episode arose the desire to erect a sacred place capable of hosting the miraculous icon. So excavations began in the mountain, with the intention of creating a sanctuary, a refuge for all those who wanted to express gratitude or beg the Madonna.
Only in the 12th century was the hermitage of the Penna di Calomini built, dedicated to Santa Maria Martyres, a work of devotion carried out by the faithful and religious of the place.
The Calomini Hermitage and the cult it housed became famous between the 17th and 18th centuries. Bishops and cardinals undertook pilgrimages to this magical and mystical place, in search of themselves, of faith or to get closer to God through the beauty of the context. Inhabitants of the surrounding villages climbed the mountains to kneel in front of the effigy and pray to the Madonna.
Thanks to generous donations from the 17th century, the valuable walnut and chestnut furniture was handcrafted, which still embellishes the sacristy today. In the 18th century, the structure was enlarged with an elegant two-order colonnade.
From the second half of the eighteenth century, the care of the place passed into the hands of the local parish priests, and in 1941 it was entrusted to the Capuchin Friars. In 1810, the Eremo Calomini suffered the weight of the Napoleonic laws which suppressed religious orders, but thanks to the commitment of the Rector of Vergemoli, the cult was able to be restored. Since 2011, the management of the structure has been entrusted to the Disciples of the Annunciation of the Archdiocese of Prato.
In 1829, Pope Pius VIII granted the opportunity to obtain a permanent plenary indulgence for pilgrims who, visiting the Calomini Hermitage, approached the sacraments of Communion and Confession, recited the Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and Glory be to the Father.
Architecture and art of the hermitage
The architecture of the Calomini hermitage reflects the spirituality that permeates its existence. Built with local stone, the church seems to blend harmoniously with the surrounding landscape, as if it were a natural extension of it. Inside, the medieval frescoes, albeit sober, portray scenes from the life of a hermit and moments of religious devotion. These simple yet profound works of art tell of a rooted spirituality and a life lived in contemplation and harmony with nature.
Legends and traditions
The Calomini Hermitage is much more than history and art: it is a place surrounded by legends and traditions. One of these tells of an evil dragon that once inhabited the surroundings of the hermitage, sowing terror and destruction. It is said that it was the hermit himself, armed with the strength of his faith and his prayers, who defeated the dragon and freed the territory from evil. This legend handed down from generation to generation represents the power of faith and the profound spirituality that permeates the place.
How to get to the Calomini Hermitage
To reach the Calomini hermitage, you need to take the road that runs along the Turrite di Gallicano in the direction of Fornovolasco/Grotta del Vento. After leaving the crossroads for Verni and Trassilico on the left, take a narrow road, passable only by cars, which leads in less than a kilometer to the square of the hermitage. An adventurous and fascinating journey, a journey towards spirituality and history.
Information for the visit
In 2023, the Eremo di Calomini welcomes visitors from Tuesday to Sunday, with guided tours of the caves at 10 am and 4 pm. The daily timetable includes moments of prayer, listening and adoration, offering pilgrims a deeper connection with the spirituality of the place.
8 am – Prayer of Praise and Listening
11 am – Holy Mass
5 pm – Prayer of Vespers and Adoration
8 pm – Hello Queen
4 am – Night prayer
After the Holy Mass at 5 pm the Sanctuary closes to the public.