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Note: the following is an unauthorized, literal translation of selections from an Italian Web site as it existed in January 1998. That site no longer exists.

Life of Blessed John the Eremite of Tufara, 1084-1170

Table of Contents


SAINT JOHN THE EREMITE OF TUFARA, 1084-1170
(San Giovanni Eremita da Tufara)

by Father Gabriele Annibale Genovese (don Gabriele Annibale Genovese)

Tufara - Giovanni's Childhood

Giovanni, called "the Eremite of Tufara", was born in the year 1084 in Tufara, a small municipality (comune) in Molise, in the Province of Campobasso: a homeland (paese) far away from the great centers, in a territory with a very beautiful panorama but impervious and almost inaccessible because lacking in highways (main roads), which remained this way until the beginning of this century.

Giovanni, already in his childhood, although he lived in an apathetic environment, indifferent and almost hostile, feels in himself the call of genuine Christianity and gives to his life a fixed address where the Spirit rules. Still very young he becomes a sacristan "In Ecclesia Sanctorum Petri et Pauli", the present mother church (of the parish of Tufara), heedless of being criticized or disparaged. The Spirit of Christ already drove his heart, his mind and his footsteps. Those of his same age began to admire him and to love him, and often they gathered at his house where Giovanni gave them to eat and to drink with a generosity such as to disconcert his parents, Mainardo and Maria, who also nevertheless were devout (pious) believers.

Tufara - Paris - Tufara Again - Giovanni's Youth

A VISIT TO PARIS
(Parigi!)

Giovanni, barely eighteen years old, moved by the desire to deepen his philosophical and theological development, undertakes that long and risky journey which brings him to Paris, city of refinement and learning which reached the highest height of culture in the midst of the forest of barbarism of the early Middle Ages. At Paris Giovanni had the opportunity to meet and to listen to the best thinkers; he enriched himself with new experiences and observed from close up the society life of this great city which was not able to seduce him. Indeed, by this almost sickened, he decided to return to Tufara, to his village (to go home). From here he took steps to satisfy the demands and the aspirations of his soul.

AT TUFARA AGAIN
(Di nuovo a Tufara)

Giovanni, little more than twenty years old, had become critical with regard to worldly values, had understood that in order to become a true follower (disciple) of Christ it was necessary to remove every obstacle: to cast off everything, to become poor, to submit the body to the spirit, in order that the spirit have no obstacles on the road to perfection and sanctity (holiness).

Giovanni was overwhelmed (sconvolto) by the words of Jesus: "Go sell all that you have, give it to the poor and then follow me."

HE MAKES A GIFT OF EVERYTHING
(Fa dono di tutto)

So it is that the young Giovanni makes a dramatic, radical decision: he sells everything, gives the proceeds to the poor, and abandons his house. He passes for the last time through the streets of his hometown (paese). He crosses the castle doorway in order to say a final good-bye to all that used to bind him to Tufara, and he comes across a poor man, completely naked with his hands held out toward him, who asks for help. Giovanni fixes his eyes carefully on him, then looking at himself, he is seized with shame to find himself more wealthy than that poor man. He takes off the ragged garment that he had on and clothes his brother in Christ. In this way, completely naked, with sure steps, he advances toward the wooded mountains where he will lead a solitary and austere life. Giovanni precedes the Poverello of Assisi in wedding Lady Poverty and loving with tenderness all creatures.

John the Eremite and Founder of a Religious Order

THE HERMIT
(L'Eremita)

Giovanni of Tufara, like a new (second) John the Baptist, flees from worldly life and withdraws with his body and mind to the harsh mountains, living in complete solitude in narrow (mean) caves. Gripped by the love of God, he denies himself, takes up his cross, subjects his body to the Holy Spirit, fasts sometimes for the entire week, prays, ponders, contemplates, reads Holy Scripture. The new Giovanni feels that he should have thirst only for God, and draws near Him as did other hermits of his time. He spends the greater part of his life in the caves of the village of Baselice in the territory of Benevento.

FOUNDER OF A RELIGIOUS ORDER
(Fondatore d'ordine religioso)

Many men, drawn by the example of Giovanni and wanting to lead a life of contemplation and of prayer, ask to join up with him, who is by now a bright lamp set up high. He, seeing their fervor and sincerity, gives origin to a form of community life. In 1156 he gives the go-ahead to the construction of the monastery in "Gualdo Mazzocca" at Foiano in the territory of Benevento, which became a center of human and Christian learning. From this abbey came forth the principles of monasticism in aid of outcasts and of the oppressed of feudal society, offering not only contemplation and prayer, but works and concrete support.

Death and Canonization

THE DEATH OF THE EREMITE GIOVANNI (1170)
(Morte dell'Eremita Giovanni)

On Saturday 14 November 1170 Giovanni left forever the stage of this world to gloriously enter the kingdom of God. He was 86 years old. The poverty in which he lived, the harsh penances, had worn out his extremely durable fiber. In the last days he had a violent fever. The brothers, his spiritual sons, had a foreboding that his end was near and, inconsolable, they gathered round his pallet (bed of straw). Giovanni did not complain, and to those who were round him he spoke about (roughly) in this manner: "Love one another, love one another always, my sons. The day that you cease to love one another will be the end of our order, of this holy place. Love creates union, hate (creates) separation, death. Love God, our beginning and end, and the Church which is the path for the salvation of your souls. Everyone love the Lord. From heaven where I shall go in a little while (before long), I will continue to love you, and once there I will wait for you. You will all come ... and together we shall sing the praises of God." While everyone, moved, was crying, at nine a.m. Giovanni returned home, (to the house) of God.

THE CANONIZATION OF ST. JOHN THE EREMITE (1221)
(Canonizzazione di san Giovanni Eremita)

San Giovanni Eremita was an extraordinary man whom we can define as "foolish and wise": foolish for being madly in love with God, wise for having made the right choice. God has loved him and has worked countless miracles by means of him, raising the dead and healing the sick. Immense crowds of people sought him while he was alive, but also through the centuries many have been touched by God and have been transformed into true followers of Christ. The monks of San Giovanni Eremita and the people of the valley of the Fortore River several times had asked the Pope to enter Giovanni in the catalog of the saints. Pope Honorius III, with the Bull of 3 June 1218 addressed to the bishops of "Dragonara" and of Lucera (FG), asked them to diligently investigate into the life of the miracles of the Eremite, and to tell him the result of their investigations in order to take, with the help of Divine Grace, the due (right) decisions. In the year 1221 the Archbishop of Benevento, Ruggiero, asked by the monks, sent to the Mazocco Woods, in his place, the Bishop of Volturara Appula (FG) and assigned to him as collaborators the Bishops of "Dragonara" and Motta Montecorvino (FG), conferring on them the task of placing the bones of the Eremite on the consecrating altar. The Bishop of Volturara, who was the oldest, began aloud the antiphon: "The Lord has loved him and has adorned him; this man has performed miraculous things in his life with joy and to the joy of everyone." Then he placed on the altar the body of the Eremite. This happened in the year 1221 of the Incarnation of the Lord, the 28th day of the month of August, in the third year of the pontificate of Honorius III, in the first year of Frederick II, Emperor of Rome and King of Sicily. Useless to speak of the jubilation whether of the clergy or of the people of Tufara. Leaving the town deserted, they went in procession to the Mazocca Woods, in order to take part in the glory of their fellow townsman. The Prior and the monks gave to the people of Tufara, with great devotion, an arm of San Giovanni Eremita, in order that they be able to venerate him on earth and to become his fellow citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven.


Historical Notes

1ST HISTORICAL NOTE
(1.º Nota Storica)

It is certain that the Eremite and his monks went to Benevento, to Pope Hadrian IV, in order to ask the pontiff to "take under his protection" what is the new church (rather than the old church) of Foiano; from Benevento comes the Pope's Bull dated 14 April 1156. In the Bull of Lucius III, on the other hand, sent from Velletri (Roma) on 26 March 1183 and directed to "diletto figlio Nathan priori monasterii sancte Marie in Gualdo de territorio Foiani [our beloved son Nathan, prior of the Monastery of Saint Mary in Gualdo in the territory of Foiano]" and his monks, speaks clearly of the monastery and indicates the place in which it rises. On 27 June 1188 Clement III, in taking the monastery under his protection, addresses the Bull to Nathan "priori S. Marie in Gualdo de territorio Flogani". Equally to Nathan "priori S. Marie in Gualdo de territorio Foiani" is addressed the Bull of Celestine III of 3 August 1192. The Bull, finally, of Innocent III dated 11 September 1208 and directed to Benedict "venerabilis prior Sancte Marie de Gualdo quod est in tenimentis Faiani", is on the way to the act with which Frederick II on 12 August 1209 took under his protection IPSUM MONASTERIUM SANCTE MARIE CUM MONASTERIO SANCTI MATHEI DE SCULCULA [the Monastery of Saint Mary itself, with the Monastery of Saint Matthew]. (1)

(1) Prof. Fiorangelo Morrone, La "Legenda" del Beato Giovanni Eremita da Tufara (Ed. Nouve ed. Tempi Moderni Napoli)

2ND HISTORICAL NOTE
(2.º Nota Storica)

"Very faithful (to the truth) writer was a certain monk by the name of Giacomo. This of him bears witness Gabriele Fiore of San Giovanni Rotondo (FG), friar minor of the cloister of St. Francis, of which still stand the cracked and ruined walls outside the town of Celenza Valfortore (FG). This friar, requested by the clergy of Tufara who wished to have the story of the life of their own townsman, copied and arranged into chapters the legend of Friar Giacomo which was located in the archives of his monastery, and sent it to the clergy of Tufara on 15 July 1586. Friar Giacomo told what he had seen with his own eyes and heard from persons worthy of belief, many times lying on their death beds, from where deceit and falsehood are distant. Nevertheless Friar Giacomo did not want to appear too credulous: he patiently waited for the death of the prior and the confirmation of the facts by him narrated, and only when he saw universally recognized and praised the saintliness of Blessed Giovanni, only then did he write down the story Friar Giacomo recounts:

"A peasant farmer of Castelpagano (BN) was working on his sharehold not very far from the cave of Blessed Giovanni. The latter, finding himself passing by there at the hour of mid-day, approached the farmer and asked him if he was tired from working and why he did not eat, this being the hour for it. The other answered to having no water in his jug and to being too tired to be able to go to draw it at the spring. Giovanni, since he heard that, went to the spring with the jug and, refilled, he brought it back full to the farmer. A short time later the farmer left the work and lifted the vessel in order to wash his hands. But what was not his wonder when he saw come forth from it some wine, red and sparkling! He began shouting on account of his amazement. The Saint Hermit (Sant'Eremita), who had gone away, quickly ran back, and, seeing the prodigy, ordered the farmer not to say a word to a living soul about the occurrence before his death. However, having come to this (his death) the farmer before Blessed Giovanni, in order that it not be forever kept secret, such a prodigy, revealed it on his death bed, where falsehood is unlikely, to one of his nephews (or grandsons) by the name of Nathan." (2)

(2) Donato Venditti, Life of Blessed Giovanni of Tufara (Naples: D'Auria, 1900)

2.º Nota Storica

« Fedelissimo scrittore fu un certo monaco di nome Giacomo: gliel'attesta Gabriele Fiore, da S. Giovanni Rotondo, frate minore del convento di S. Francesco, di cui ancora s'innalzano le screpolate e ruinanti mura fuori l'abitato di Celenza Valfortore. Questi, pregato dal clero di Tufara che desiderava aver la storia della vita proprio concittadino, copiò ed ordinò per capitoli la leggenda di frate Giacomo, che giaceva nell'archivio del suo monastero, e la mandò ai tufaroli il 15 Luglio 1586. Frate Giacomo raccontò che aveva visto con i suoi occhi e udito dalle persone degne di fede, molte volte giacenti sul letto di morte, da cui è distante l'inganno e la menzogna. Eppure frate Giacomo non volle parere troppo credulo, pazientemente aspettò la morte del priore e la conferma dei fatti da lui narrati, e solo quando vide universalmente riconosciuta e decantata la santità del Beato Giovanni, solo allora egli scrisse la storia Frate Giacomo racconta. »

« Lavorava un di un contadino di Castelpagano nel suo podere non molto distante dalla grotta del Beato. Il quale, trovatosi di là a passare nell'ora del mezzodì, gli s'accostò e gli domandò se era stanco dal lavoro e perché non mangiava essendone ora. Rispose l'altro non aver acqua nella brocca ed esser troppo stanco da poter andare ad attingerla alla fonte. Giovanni, come ebbe ciò sentito, si recò alla sorgente colla brocca ed riempita la riportò piena al contadino. Dopo poco lasciò questi il lavoro, ed alzò il recipiente per lavarsi le mani. Ma qual non fu la sua meraviglia quando vide uscire da quello del vino rosso e spumeggiante! si diede a gridare per lo stupore. Il Sant'Eremita che s'era allontanato, accorse subito, e, visto il prodigio, impose al contadino di non far motto ad anima viva dell'accaduto innanzi la sua morte. Però essendo a questa venuto il contadino prima del Beato, perché non fosse per sempre occultato un tal prodigio, lo rivelò sul letto di morte, ove è difficile la menzogna ad uno suo nipote di nome Nathan. » (2)

(2) Mons. Donato Dott. Venditti, Vita del B. Giovanni Da Tufara (Ed D'Auria, Napoli 1900).


Tufara - Religious Holidays, Traditions, and Holy Places

RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS
(Festività)

At Tufara, of which St. John the Eremite is Patron (Saint), are celebrated three holidays with solemn processions and kissing of the relics: 24 June, 28 August, and 14 November. Distribution is made on 14 November. On this last holiday are distributed to all the people blessed "panelle" as a sign of fraternal union, which was the dream of San Giovanni Eremita.

TRADITIONS
(Tradizioni)

Agricultural activity has been and is the principal source of support (sustenance) of the population of Tufara.

Such activity has designed the transformations of the territory, the way of life, of thinking tied to country traditions and to the land. Our popular and rural traditions have religious roots.

The Abbey of Gualdo Mazocca, under the jurisdiction of Blessed Giovanni, native of Tufara, chose the coat of arms of the Cross and the plow. The commemoration of the death on "14 November" of St. John the Eremite, points out the hospitable feelings of the citizens of Tufara toward their fellow-man (neighbor). Loaves of bread are given out to strangers (foreigners, guests) as a sign of welcome.

The same sentiment is present among the citizens of Foiano di Val Fortore (BN). The people of Foiano distribute to strangers little taralli, biscotti and wine as a sign of welcome during the holiday (festivity) of St. John the Eremite of 24 June.

The wine distributed during the celebration of the holiday has religious references.

Note: the text of the next section was rearranged by the translator.

THE HOLY PLACES OF TUFARA
(I luoghi sacri) [Photographs from July 2007]

The house where San Giovanni Eremita was born rises on top of a rock of compact sandstone in the historic center of Tufara. Sheltered by the house of the saint is the Fountain of San Giovanni. The water runs through the rock of compacted sandstone and comes out on the surface. It is told that the source of this fountain gushed by a singular prodigy under the feet of Blessed Giovanni.

The house of the saint and the fountain are being protected from deterioration and strengthened. The scarce availability of funds does not allow the completion of the restoration of the church called "the house of San Giovanni" (abitazione di san Giovanni).

To the always greater prominence of the little church, the municipality ordered that the street in which the church is found and various alleys that lead to it be called by the name of Giovanni. The spring was covered by an arched wall; and the imprint left by the saint's knee and by his hand are guarded with religious veneration. In a wall of the Church of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, is found a niche with a bust of Giovanni and in a wall nearby is the cabinet wherein enclosed is kept that holy arm brought from Mazocca. Today the relic is no longer bare of ornament, but is set in silver covered by a great number of gems and of pearls.

The Church of Saints Peter and Paul is earlier than (prior to) 1170, when Blessed Giovanni was sacristan there. The foundation is Romanesque. The church was restored in various epochs. Visible at the portals is that of the Gothic period, and memorable was the restoration executed from 1727 to 1740. Still visible is the Baroque stucco-work. The church is composed of three naves, the center being longer and higher. Three memorial stones (tablets) document the visit of Cardinal Orsini, later Pope Benedict XIII, at various times (1695, 1696, 1701) for the consecration of the altars.


BIBLIOGRAPHY AND AUTHORS
Bibliografia e Autori

The Authors (Autori):

Their Bibliography:

• Mons. Donato Dott. Venditti, Vita del B. Giovanni Da Tufara ("Life of Blessed Giovanni of Tufara") (Ed D'Auria, Napoli 1900)

• Sac. Dott. Antonio Iatalese, San Giovanni Eremita Da Tufara ("Saint John the Eremite of Tufara") (Ed. Scuolo tipografica Pontificia POMPEI 1947)

• Prof. Fiorangelo Morrone, La "Legenda" del Beato Giovanni Eremita da Tufara ("The Legend of Blessed Giovanni the Eremite of Tufara") (Ed. Nuove ed. Tempi Moderni Napoli)

• nell'arte di Anna Maria Margione I Fioretti del Beato Giovanni Eremita da Tufara ("in the art of Anna Maria Margione The Little Flowers of Blessed Giovanni the Eremite of Tufara") (Parrocchia S Leonardo Baselice) ("Parish Church of San Leonardo, Basilice [BN]")

• Oreste Gentile, Il Sannio Pentro ("The Samnium-Pentri") (ED. Rufus, Campobasso, 1991)

• M. Conte, S. Menannu, G. Pizzi, Il paesaggio Fortificato ("The Fortified Countryside") (in Rivista annuale della Camera di Commercio, CB 1983) ("in the Annual Review of the Chamber of Commerce of Campobasso").

Source of the Italian Text

Copyright © 1997 by Associazione Culturale Cattolica "Per il Giubileo". Literal translation by Robert [Wesley] Angelo last modified 20 February 1999.

Tufara Verso il Giubileo del 2000
20/08/97
Autore: Porcarelli Ing. Giovanni
Molise Dati Srl - CAMPOBASSO - ITALY

The original Italian language documents were found at:
<www.molisedati.it/tufara/index.htm>

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The URL of this Web page: https://www.roangelo.net/valente/sangiova.html
Last revised: 4 March 2007 : 2007-03-04 by Robert [Wesley] Angelo.

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