A friend among friends: Don Vincenzo at San Pietro

1. Beato Angelico in Civate: before and after

The Beato Angelico School of Sacred Art was founded in 1921 by Monsignor Giuseppe Polvara to promote and study the Christian faith through artistic expression in all its fields of application: painting, sculpture, architecture and ornamentation. The aim of the school, then as now, is to provide cultural and spiritual training for young artists who will be able to create works of art rich in religious and artistic meaning.

Don Vincenzo Gatti began his long journey of religious and artistic education within the Beato Angelico family in the early 1950s. At that time, the abbey of San Pietro al Monte was the summer residence for the consecrated members of the religious family.

He tells of the first time he went up to San Pietro al Monte, when he was still a young cleric: the evening before the feast of the Beato Angelico Family, he walked along the road that still connects Suello to San Pietro al Monte. After attending the services, he slept in the oratory of San Benedetto on a bed of wood and hay piled up in the old entrance, with a splendid view of the starry sky, since the roof of the oratory had not yet been fixed.
It was here that he fell in love with the place. He decided to dedicate himself to its care, body and soul. From that time on, he returned whenever possible. He himself wrote: ‘I let myself be enveloped by the intense green of the surrounding woods, by the charm of the rocks that loom ominously from Corno Birone, by the singing murmur of the stream that flows swiftly through the valley below. And by the mystery. Yes, by the mystery of its history, which is lost in the most ancient of times. By the faces of the men who have lived there in prayer. By the hard work of those who, with patience and tenacity, have restored the old walls, caressed the harmony of its inimitable architecture, the art of the colours, the frescoes the chiselled stuccoes between its silent walls…’.

Don Vincenzo bonded with the local young people, telling them about the basilica and its beauty. Because of this, he asked and obtained permission from his superiors to have the care of San Pietro as his “work”. He was fortunate enough to quickly encounter a group of willing young people ready to follow him. Over time, others joined, offering their help for various reasons, including financial support for Don Vincenzo’s still loosely organized initiative. From that moment on, the great flourishing of San Pietro al Monte began. In 1974, thanks to the lawyer Lorini from Lecco and a group of former high school classmates, the idea of financing the restoration of a fresco to commemorate a deceased friend was born. Thus began the restoration of the “Madonna and Child between Saints Peter, Paul, Thomas and Lucius”.

Thanks to this initial drive, the statute was drawn up to establish the Associazione degli Amici di San Pietro al Monte (Association of the Friends of San Pietro al Monte) on 4 July 1975 at the headquarters of the monastery in Valle of San Calogero. Since then, this association has been dedicated to this very important historical, artistic, and above all, religious site. This group of young volunteers was also a gift from Providence, which never abandoned Don Vincenzo, embracing him and holding his hand even in the most difficult and strenuous moments of caring for this place.
Even today he knocks on the door of the monastery to support the volunteers, also providing new willing recruits. And the older members never fail to say, “Grazie, Don”.