Rosia is located in the district of Sovicille within the Province of Siena, Tuscany, Italy.
It is approximately twenty-two kilometres southwest of Sienna, and thirty kilometres from San Gimignano, and closer again to Lecceto. It is near the road leading southwest to the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. All that exists today at Rosia is the ruins of the ancient Augustinian hermitage dedicated to Saint Lucy and at some time also to Saint Anthony.
Diagram (above): The coloured portion of the diagram is the building that still stands as a ruin. Match it with the photo on the photo that follows.
Rosia is well worth a visit. It is often a point of pilgrimage for Augustinian visitors to Saint Augustine's Church in San Gimignano. Especially in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the hillsides of Tuscany contained many rudimentary hermitages, some of which were natural caves. Tradition has it that there was a hermit’s cave near the present site in Rosia, which was superseded by dwellings on the present site once numerous hermits came to the area. In 1969 the site was excavated through the cooperation of Wayne State University, Northern Kentucky University, the Tuscan American Foundation and the Etruscan Foundation (all from the United States of America). A coin minted in Germany in the year 1002 was discovered on the site. This site at Rosia was very probably inhabited for before then, however, because tombs were found there dating from the tenth century, and walls underneath the house have origins in the ninth century.
Beneath the ruins of the present church there had successively stood two wooden churches, plus an adjacent cloister for a community of hermits. Archaeological evidence indicates that both churches had been destroyed by fire. Even the wind direction during the last fire has been deduced as coming from the south-east, which is the usual prevailing wind direction at Rosia. The third church (of which only a section of a side wall any longer exists) was built in stone, with somewhat of a Cistercian architectural influence – tall, elegant and simple. As can be seen in the photograph on the next page, it was made of alternating layers of white stone and red brick in the Pisa-Luccan style.
The entire complex (see diagram on the previous page) comprised a romanesque-gothic church, the quarters for sleeping, work buildings, a cloister (clausura, patio) roofed over on two sides and a canal that brought fresh water to the site. The community quarters were in the building that still stands in ruin (i.e., the coloured portion of the above diagram). This building was much altered in the subsequent years when it served as a farmhouse. Its most interesting pieces were taken away and placed in the home of the owner of the land. The three gothic arches (from which someone has removed the stone frames) and traces of a number of windows with white stone lintels give some evidence of what the building must originally have looked like. Dedicated in honour of Saint Lucy (Santa Lucia), the site was part of a number of early communities involved in the initial steps to have a "Little Union" of Tuscan hermits in the year 1244.
Rosia was started by a hermit named Bonacorso about the year 1170, and is mentioned in documents of the Diocese of Siena and Volterra in 1216, 1225 and 1239. Bonacorso attracted a number of followers, who came and built their huts around his, and also constructed a small wooden church. There is a plaque in the Communal Library of Siena which attests to the completion of a church on the Rosia site by Magister Martinus in the year 1252. It was consecrated in 1267.
The church was built with the financial help of a leading family in Siena named Spannocchi. They owned the estate of Spannocchia, within which Rosia is situated. It is unknown when the Rule of Augustine was first adopted at Rosia. The earliest evidence now available is the bull of Gregory IX (Pope from 1227 to 1241), Conquesti sunt. It was addressed to the Archdeacon of Aretino concerning the rights and privileges of "the prior and brothers of the hermits of Rosia, of the Order of St. Augustine" - which would be a fair indication that the Rule of Augustine was then in use there. Augustinian connections were seen in the Augustinian Grand Union of 1256, when Domenic, the prior at Rosia, was elected Econome General (treasurer) of the Order of St Augustine, based in Rome. Rosia also cherished the Augustinian myth (which is definitely historically incorrect) that it was among the eremitical (hermit) communities in the Tuscan hills (e.g., that of S. Giorgio della Spelonca) that St Augustine himself had spent time establishing.
In 1266 Pope Clement IV granted an indulgence to all those who visited the church at Rosia within the octave (eight days) of the annual feast day of St Lucy. By 1575 no longer with any pilgrims passing by, and with minimal habitation in that hilly area requiring priestly services, the hermitage (eremo) at Rosia was reduced to the status of becoming merely a branch of the large Augustinian community in Siena. In 1638 only two friars remained there, and in 1661 one Augustinian priest and an Augustinian lay brother. Santa Lucia at Rosia subsequently closed. It was taken from Augustinian possession when it fell victim to the suppression of religious houses by the Holy Roman Emperor in 1785. This was during the reign of the “enlightened despot,” the Hapsburg Emperor Joseph II of Augsburg, who was the Duke of Milan and in 1765 - 1790 also the Holy Roman Emperor. His reforms condemned ecclesiastical privileges, and sought to unify in the hands of the state much of the power of the Pope and the Church over public life.
In this so-called Age of Enlightenment with its distinct anticlerical overtones, enclosed monasteries of contemplative monks or nuns, and small religious communities without a public ministry of service by conducting a school, orphanage or hospital, etc., were frowned upon by the Emperor. During its Augustinian era from 1256 to 1785, Rosia had its Blesseds (i.e. beatified Christians). The names of four Blesseds are known: Rinero, Gualfredo, Giacomo, and Pietro de Rossi. Pietro was well known for his devotion to the Cross, and for his tears when contemplating the pains of Christ. Giacomo was a lay brother who dedicated himself to the sick and to poor people. He is said to have had an apple tree that produced fruit twice a year so that he could better feed the poor people.This myth was copied by Jordan of Saxony O.S.A. into his widely-read Liber Vitasfratrum ("A Book about the life of the Brothers") was published in 1357.
Rosia was listed among the twenty-one houses of the Augustinian Province of Siena in the catalogue of Augustinian communities that existed during the time in office of the Prior General, Giralomo Seripando O.S.A. in 1539-1551. All that is found of the hermitage today is ruins. The building was inhabited as a residence for farm labourers until about the year 1947. A few kilometres from Lecceto in Tuscany, Italy along the Highway 73 Senese-Arezzo, leading southwest towards the coast, the attention of a visitor is caught by a single-arched stone bridge. It dates back to the early thirteenth century. Here a visit to the former Augustinian hermitage (eremo) of Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy) at Rosia begins.
The bridge is called the Ponte della Pia because it was used by the noble lady, Pia de Tolomei, when she was sent away from Siena - and later killed - by her husband, Nello Pannocchieschi, as told by Dante in his work,The Divine Comedy (Purgatorio, Canto V 130-1236). Crossing the bridge over the Rosia River and following the remnants of a Roman road, you make your way three kilometres through the woods to the ruins of former Augustinian hermitage (eremo) of Santa Lucia at Rosia. During the Middle Ages this road was a spur off the Via Francigena, the pilgrim route from Canterbury, England to the holy places in Rome.This spur was the ancient Via Massetana, connecting Siena to the Maremma, which is a vast area in south-western Tuscany that includes the province of Grosseto, known for its hermitages with Augustinian connections, including that of S. Guglielmo da Malavalle.
The bridge is now only for pedestrians, ever since its side parapets were destroyed by German tanks during the Second World War. The Augustinian hermitage of Rosia was located just a little off the road, but close enough to be visited by travellers. The site was cut into the side of a hill.Photo GalleryFor the Augnet gallery on the Augustinian history of Rosia, click here.
Eremo di Rosia. Written in Italian, but has photographs. http://www.castellitoscani.com/italian/rosia.htm
13th Century Augustinian Monasteries. Text by Fr. Brian Lowery, OSA, Ph.D, and uploaded by the Augustinians in California, USA. An excellent overview, with illustrations. http://osa-west.org/ancient-osa-monasteries.html